Day one of the questioning part of the Judge Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings almost made me feel dirty. Between the Judge backtracking on almost everything she had ever said, and the Democrats kissing up, by the end of the day of hearings I actually felt dirty, like I needed a shower.
Probably the most dramatic part of the day’s activities were the Judges answers to the “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.” statement. Her back track explanation was so confusing, it made one feel as they fell into a advanced quantum physics class.
Senator Jeff Sessions did a great job pinning down Sonia Sotomayor forcing her to disavow almost everything she ever said. Sessions was once a judge testifying before the Senate himself, in fact Sessions was “Borked” even before Judge Bork was “Borked.”
Sessions forced Sotomayor into her first glaring lie. When he asked about the “Wise Latina” Statement the Judge explained that she was trying to agree with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, by playing off her statement that a wise old man and a wise old woman should be able to reach the same conclusion in a case. “My play…fell flat,” Sotomayor said in response to Session’s question. “It was bad, because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that’s clearly not what I do as a judge.”
When you look at Sotomayor’s “Wise Latina” in context of her 2001 Berkley speech it is clear that her intent was to disagree with O’Connor:
I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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.
The most brilliant exchange regarding the “Wise Latina” speech was the work of Senator Lindsey Graham, which was less of a questioning and more of a Smack Down:
Graham: Do you understand, maam, how if I said anything like that, and I justified it as saying I was trying to inspire someone, they would have my head?
Sotomayor: I can understand how it could be hurtful, particularly if read in isolation.
Graham: I don’t know how you can justify — if I said that because of my experience as a Caucasian male I am a better person to represent the people of South Carolina, and my opponent was a minority, it would make national news, and it should. I am not going to judge you based on that one statement… I just hope you appreciate the world we live in, and how you can say something like that, meaning to inspire someone, and still have a chance to get on the Supreme Court. Others could not, if they had said anything remotely like that statement. Does that make sense to you?
Sotomayor: It does.
The bottom line is probably none of this matters, Sotomayor will probably be confirmed but at least thanks to Sessions and Graham, Americans will have a better idea of what we are getting.