Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Conservative Viewpoint
- Sotomayor: Empathy Or Justice?

Article by Bob Steinburg
- Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

Last week President Barack Obama selected his nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter to the U.S. Supreme Court. She is U. S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor. If confirmed by the U. S. Senate late this summer or early fall, Sotomayor, who has Puerto Rican roots, would be the first Hispanic-American to sit on the highest court in the land.

For Obama and the Democrats, her selection has a great deal to do with politics. Hispanics represent the fastest growing segment of our society. One in every six Americans is Hispanic; a total population of almost 47 million. They are reproducing at a rate greater than any other minority and are estimated to make up 30 percent of the U. S. population by 2050. Given there is only one female currently serving on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the significance of the Hispanic demographic, Obama’s selection appears politically wise.

Sotomayor’s personal story is compelling. She grew up in the projects of the Bronx in the `60’s, raised by her mother after her father’s death. At age eight she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. She’s obviously smart, educated at Princeton and Yale. Sotomayor practiced law, including a stint as a criminal prosecutor, before being appointed to the U. S. Court of Appeals by President George H. W. Bush. It is easy to see why Obama can identify with this individual who, like himself, has a persuasive story to sell.

While this is the first Hispanic American to be nominated to the Supreme Court, if not for the Democrats, she may not have been. In 2001 President George W. Bush nominated Miguel Estrada to the U. S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Court. Estrada’s story was equally compelling. He was being groomed for the Supreme Court, but his nomination was held up for 28 months, including six months of a Democratic filibuster.

Internal memos have been uncovered that were written to then- Senate minority-whip Dick Durbin, D-ILL., on Nov. 7, 2001 regarding a meeting with civil rights leaders the previous day. The memo mentions that liberal interest groups desired to keep Estrada, a conservative, off the court because his Latino heritage made him “especially dangerous” as a future Supreme Court nominee. Estrada eventually withdrew.

It seems unlikely the Republicans will attempt to filibuster Sotomayor’s nomination. But it is their duty, in fact the duty of all of those on the Senate Judiciary Committee to further probe into her judicial philosophy. Is she color blind, as any justice should be when interpreting the law, or does she consider race, gender and background in arriving at her decisions?

Last week, New York Times reporter David Kilpatrick, wrote that Sotomayor “has championed the importance of considering race and ethnicity in admissions, hiring and even judicial selection at almost every stage of her career.” Perhaps that is why her remark in 2001 that she hoped a “wise Latina woman” would reach a better judicial conclusion than a white male, has raised more than a few eye brows. She recently admitted that her choice of words were unfortunate, but added they were taken out of context. But were they?

The Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid reported another similar remark by Sotomayor when she served on a panel of women in the judiciary seven years earlier. Her comments were virtually the same as in `01, except here she referred to women generally-not just Latinas as being better able to reach a more compassionate and caring conclusion.

Another concern with the Sotomayor nomination was her decision denying a reverse discrimination appeal brought by a group of white New Haven, Conn. firefighters. This group was deprived of promotions in spite of passing the required exam because no blacks and only two Hispanics had passed. This case is likely to be reversed by the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor recently wrote the forward to a book by David Terris and Leigh Swiggart entitled, “International Judge.” Terris had this to say about Soltomayor: “Her nomination represents a huge step forward for American law. Her openness to learning from international courts will encourage U. S. judges to make careful and appropriate use of the collective wisdom of the global legal community.” Where does that leave the U. S. Constitution that judges are sworn to uphold?

Some have labeled Sotomayor a reverse racist. That’s for others to decide. The real question is this: Is she capable of administering equal justice?

An umpire in a baseball game has to call balls and strikes based on whether each pitch is in the strike zone or not. Whether the batter or the pitcher is a friend or shares the same ethnicity, need to catch a break, or is even someone he dislikes, should not influence his call. A pitch in the strike zone is a strike; outside the strike zone-a ball—period!

America wants to know what Judge Sotomayor thinks and why. As a member of the Supreme Court, will she make her judicial decisions based on empathy and compassion or will she interpret the law as written? Cases before the court should be decided on constitutional merit, not on race, gender or ethnicity.

Providing equal justice to all Americans is not a concept; it’s the law. Whether Justice Sotomayor truly believes that or not, will be for the U. S. Senate to determine. Let’s hope they get it right.

What discourages me about our Supreme Court is the fact that our court system is a disaster in every way. Here are a few of the truths about the track record of our courts.

We have the most corrupt system of civil courts in any democracy. No other country has a lottery based system of extortion and blackmail with the disastrous track record our system has for dispensing injustice. We permit punitive damages against people who are unpopular but who have obeyed the law and committed no crime. The success with which numerous people have sued their way to riches has led us to be the most litigious society in history.

We have the most corrupt system of criminal courts in any democracy, running a revolving door system to repeatedly free the most evil people in our society to kill and rape and steal again and again. We have instituted insane rules that assure gangs and organized crime can kill, threaten and destroy anyone who dares to testify against them. The court solution is a comedy where witnesses are required to give up their lives and freedom in witness protection. And we provide that protection to killers and rapists too, forgiving their crimes for the supposed ‘greater good’ of society if they testify against their fellow criminals.

We have turned our criminal system into a let's make a deal system, where convictions are so difficult that criminals are sentenced to minor punishment just to get a conviction. There is far more concern with a minor victory for the district attorney than there is for justice for the victims. Victims never get justice. Instead judges pamper the criminal and define 'civil rights' with ever greater intent to have criminals walk free. These are not 'civil rights' for the innocent. These are 'criminal rights' for the guilty.

In both criminal and civil systems we have created a voire dire process that corrupts the concept of "a jury of your peers" beyond recognition. We allow the courts to destroy people’s lives when assigned to a jury by tying them up in court for endless months over trivial and ridiculous minutiae that serves no purpose in determining justice. We allow the exclusion from juries of anyone who displays even a modicum of intelligence. Then we pretend that we have protected the ‘jury system’.

In America ‘the rule of law’ has long since been replaced by ‘the rule of judges’. I don’t think that allowing Sotomayor on the court will matter an iota in the farce that our courts have become. There is no justice in America. Our courts are corrupt.


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