Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor

I was planning on writing a piece on the Supreme Court candidate Sonia Sotomayor, but Thomas Sowell has beaten me to the punch and would top me in any excellence that might be achieved. I urge the reading of his series of articles titled "Out of Context", which can be found in three parts here, here, and here.

Though I do think I should clarify something that Mr. Sowell seems to have not explained to satisfaction. As has been said before by Ayn Rand, the most difficult thing to explain is the most blindingly obvious that nobody decided to see. The offending quote of Sotomayor's is this:
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. [Excerpt from The New York Times.]
Some people seem to be stating that this is no grounds to accuse her of being a racist and sexist, but it is plainly obvious. To translate the sentence without distorting its meaning, she is stating that she hopes a woman of Latina descent would reach better conclusions, by reason of her race and gender, than a white male, by reason of his race and gender, that has not lived the life of a Latina woman. Everything is so specific here that no debate is possible. Ms. Sotomayor uses gender specific pronouns ("woman" and "male") and race specific adjectives ("Latina" and "white").

But we have not only her statement as grounds to accuse her; we have also have note of some of her actions. Regarding firefighters that sued The City of New Haven due to the denial of a promotion on the basis that not enough minorities passed the given exam:
New Haven city officials knew they were headed for a catch 22 when the test results came back.

The city decided to throw out the test results, fearing a lawsuit by the black firefighters. They got one anyway -- from the white and Hispanic firefighters, who said New Haven's decision discriminated against them.

The firefighters lost in court. They appealed, and that's how this case got to Sotomayor, who is currently a federal appeals judge.

What has all of Washington talking is what happened next: Sotomayor and two fellow appellate judges dismissed the white firefighters' claims -- and 2,000 pages of court papers and filings -- in a one-paragraph ruling. [Excerpt from ABC News.]
Whether or not one agrees with the particular law, the law is clearly written out that it is legally prohibited for an employer to discriminate against his employees, current or potential, on the basis of race, gender, or religion. By denying the promotions promised to those that satisfied the specified conditions on the basis that a racial group did not perform as well as other racial groups, the City is thereby guilty of racial discrimination and is to be dealt with as detailed by law. Did Sonia Sotomayor make her decision based on the lettering of the law? No, for the law should have ruled against the City, but instead the case was dismissed altogether.

Prejudiced or not, when a judge makes a judicial decision that is not based on the lettering of the law, that should amount for the automatic disqualification of a Supreme Court candidate. I stated in my article Vagueness and the Road to Power that nonobjective laws are bad because they are literally impossible to follow. A nonobjective judge is far worse, for not only would he be willing to operate on and support nonobjective laws, but he would actively ignore objectively defined laws as well.

If you think it is like a bad dream to have in temporary office a terrible politician, think of how bad things will be to have a bad judge appointed for an entire lifetime. I must add emphasis to reading Sowell's above articles, and encourage sending a letter to your elected representatives.


Jason said...

Good point on the race and gender issue. It was well said.

It's a sad indictment of our culture that so many prominent "intellectuals" are praising Sotomayor's non-objective political philosophy. What makes me angrier than anything else is the idea that a judge cannot be an expert on the law without going through particular experiences of races and gender other than his or her own. If Justice Alito makes a bad decision regarding abortion, it's not because he is not a woman and has never had an abortion, it's because he doesn't understand the concept of individual rights and the proper definition of a human.

However, the larger point that seems to be going unmentioned, even by Objectivists, is that every nominee and current Supreme Court Justice is so horrible. Alito, Ginsberg, and every other Justice and nominee are just as poor judges as Sotomayor would be. Any judge that would rule any welfare, the Department of Education, or the FAA (just to name a few) constitutional is a failure. Their differences are so minor. Fundamentally they are all very much in agreement.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Objectivity, of course, is the key requirement for a judge. Dr. Harry Binswanger, in an essay here, presents a philosophical introduction to the nature of objective law.

In Study Groups for Objectivists, that short text will be the subject of a two-week study group beginning the last week of July. It may be helpful for law students in particular and intellectual activists in general.

The study group leader will be Stephen Plafker, Ph.D. and J.D., who cofounded The Association for Objective Lawand has lectured at OCON 2006 on the structure of the American constitution.

Jason said...

Thanks for pointing the study group out. I just signed up. It's on a topic I've been trying to understand better and find more extensive information on. Looking forward to it.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Jason, I am glad to hear you have signed up for SGO. Be sure to also enroll in the Objective Law study group itself by clicking on Participate (on the Details page for the study group) so that you can be involved.

I haven't officially announced it yet, by Steve Plafker, Ph.D. and J.D., will be leading the study group. The Ayn Rand Bookstore carries his lecture series on the US Constitution. He has worked closely with Dr. Binswanger in the past, on some projects.