Judging the judge


I’m still waiting to hear some really substantive reporting about Sonia Sotomayor and her qualifications to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Admittedly I’ve not gone out doing any research on my own; I keep thinking the important stuff will get reported by the mainstream media — eventually. Maybe after the confirmation hearings begin. I’ll watch those and draw my own conclusions.

So far I’ve heard extensive discussions about whether she’s a racist. Not based on a detailed examination of her decisions as a judge, mind you, but on one quote of hers and a bunch of ideas about what it meant.

She can’t undo a fact of birth; she is a Latina. Whether saying, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman [isn’t that redundant?] 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” makes her a racist or simply arrogant, it doesn’t sound like the language of “blind justice.” I don’t get the relevance of being a Latina. She speaks Spanish? She makes a mean tortilla? How does this make her a good judge, or a better judge than anyone else?

I’ve heard about the Ricci case in New Haven, Conn., where she was on a three-judge panel that refused to hear the case and allowed a ruling in favor of New Haven to stand. Frankly, I think the original ruling should have gone against New Haven.

In my opinion, New Haven was wrong to throw out a perfectly valid employment test because it didn’t get the desired result (certain individuals didn’t score well enough). You devise the best test you can, give the same test to all the applicants, and let the chips fall where they may. You don’t throw the test out after the fact because not enough blacks (as in this case) or Asians or gays or women passed it. Everyone took the same test; everyone had the same chance to score well.

And by the way, exactly how many blacks would have to pass the test before it’s considered valid? What if on the next test a bunch of blacks pass, but no white or Hispanic passes? Throw out that test and write a third one? This is a ridiculous way to try to apply affirmative action, which is inherently discriminatory anyway.

It’s simple, really. Give the test. Identify the candidates only by number. That takes race, age, gender, hair color, and everything else out of the equation. Only the answers on the test count; the grading is totally objective. End of story.

So, what else have we learned about Sotomayor so far? Oh yes, she read Nancy Drew when she was a kid. That’s critical to becoming a good judge, you know. I guess I’d have never even made it through law school; I read the Hardy Boys.

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