The President's Ideal Nominee

Posted: May 27, 2009 5:00 PM
I am looking forward to learning more about Judge Sotomayor, President Obama’s first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, during the confirmation hearings.  While the House doesn’t get a vote on this; like many Americans, I want to know more about her record on the bench, her qualifications for this very important post, and her understanding of the proper role of the Supreme Court in protecting our Constitution and our laws.
In fact, I think the confirmation process is a wonderful opportunity for all Americans to reflect again on our Constitution and appreciate the very special roles of all parts of our government in preserving our liberties.  Senators must ask tough, substantive questions to determine if the nominee respects the Constitution and laws as written or is instead inclined to rewrite them to fit with her own political worldview, the traditional purview of the legislative branch.

We know from past statements that President Obama's ideal nominee is one "who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old—and that's the criterion by which I'll be selecting my judges."
In fact, explaining his vote against the confirmation of Chief Justice John Roberts, Obama declared that deciding the "truly difficult" cases requires a judge to resort to "one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works, and the depth and breadth of one's empathy. The critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart." 

One wonders what he found lacking in Chief Justice Roberts’ heart; but still more disconcerting is the fact that a Justice's role is to interpret the law, not make it based on feelings and emotions.
Judge Sotomayor has admitted that she applies her feelings and personal politics when deciding cases.  In a 2001 speech at Berkeley, she stated that she believes it is appropriate for a judge to consider their “experiences as women and people of color,” which she believes should “affect our decisions.”  She went on to say in that same speech “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” 

She reiterated her commitment to that judicial philosophy at Duke Law School in 2005 when she stated that the “Court of Appeals is where policy is made.”
If this is truly her view of interpreting the law, and I do hope we’ll learn more through a thorough evaluation and confirmation process, then President Obama’s nominee appears lacking.