Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's first Supreme Court nominee, has drawn criticism for a statement she made in 2001: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." You can bet that some Senators will focus on her words during Sotomayor's confirmation hearings later this summer.
Before you decide on Sotomayor's qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court, or not, based solely on that statement, you should read the entire address from which it was taken, "A Latin Judge's Voice," as reprinted in the New York Times.
In the same address, Sotomayor says, "Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society."
Later in the address, Sotomayor acknowledges the capability of judges "of different experiences or backgrounds" from her own to make rulings showing sensitivity to the needs of the nation's diverse population. "As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown," she said, referencing the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision banning racial segregation in public schools.
While Sotomayor clearly admits that judges must maintain neutrality, the basis of her speech is that how they were raised, and the lives that they have lived, will ultimately shape all judge's views of justice.
Is is realistic to believe that judges can, or should, always blindly disregard their life experiences in their decisions? Should Sotomayor's "Latin woman wisdom" statement be as controversial as it may become? To be fair, read her entire address, then you be the judge.