The Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings on Judge Sotomayor begin this week. Senators will inquire if Judge Sotomayor can be a fair and impartial judge. Republicans will grill her on quotas, racial bias and gun control. Democrats just want her to be fair and rule liberally. So what does it mean to be fair and impartial?
Judges are asked to set aside their own personal views and rule solely on the law as applied to the particular facts of a case. Yet, must a judge truly forget and set aside his or her own ethnic background, race, religion, gender, family background to rule fairly? We start life with a clean slate. From then on, we learn what it means to be male or female, black, white, Asian or Latino, rich or poor, educated or non-educated, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim.
The Senators cannot seriously expect Judge Sotomayor or any judge to truly set aside everything that makes us who we are. We are the sum total of all our parts This includes race, religion, gender, familial background and ethnicity.
The Republicans do not really care if Judge Sotomayor will be fair as long as she sides in favor of their issues. Ditto for the Democrats. And that’s what the confirmation hearings really boil down to. So the hypocrisy of saying the Senators want to determine her fairness should be loooked at with suspicion and skepticism.
As a trial lawyer, I oftentimes inquire of colleagues their opinion of a particular judge. Judges do come in all shapes, sizes and opinions. There are judges who are known to harbor criminal defense bias, prosecutorial bias, pro plaintiff views, anti discrimination bias, pro defense views and the list goes on. Rarely do we hear a colleague say a judge rules fairly. In those instances, I know I have a good judge and will get a fair trial.
I disagree with former Justice Sandra O’Connor who said recently that the make up of the bench does not matter. The make up of the Supreme Court matters greatly. It is very important that the make up of the bench reflect the diversity of our society. It is only then that the judging will begin to be fair.
I want Judge Sotomayor to bring to the Supreme Court bench all the richness this Latina woman has to offer. I want her to bring her female perspective, her Hispanic heritage, her Catholic background, her first generation American pride, her intellect and her Ivy League education. I want her to bring it all. And I think that in doing so, she will be first and foremost a fair judge.