Judge Sonia Sotomayor has come under fire from the radical right for stating that her experiences as a Latina affect her judicial outlook. However, these same conservative critics never objected when Judge Sam Alito said virtually the same thing during his confirmation hearing, discussing how he “can’t help but think of” his immigrant family when evaluating immigration cases:
ALITO: Senator, I tried to in my opening statement, I tried to provide a little picture of who I am as a human being and how my background and my experiences have shaped me and brought me to this point. … And that’s why I went into that in my opening statement. Because when a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant — and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases — I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position. […]
And that goes down the line. When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account.
Watch it (via Jed Lewison):
“Anyone who is objecting now to Sotomayor’s alleged ‘empathy’ problem but who supported Sam Alito and never objected to this sort of thing ought to have their motives questioned,” writes Glenn Greenwald.
UPDATE: Later in the hearing, Alito referenced his father’s experience as the basis of his view on district reapportionment:
GRASSLEY: Some have questioned your 1985 statement regarding the electoral reapportionment, that is how districts are drawn. They suggested that you’re hostile to the principle of one person, one vote. Clarify for me, nowhere in your ’85 statement did I find that you wrote that you ever disagreed with the principle of one person, one vote. Did you?
ALITO: I never disagreed with that principle, Senator. What I disagreed with when I was in college was the application of the principle in some of — the elaboration of the principle in some of the late Warren court decisions. And this grew out of my father’s work with the New Jersey legislature. He had been the secretary to the state constitutional convention of 1966, which redrew the provisions of the state constitution relating to the composition of the legislature in an effort to bring it into compliance with the one person, one vote standard.
These provisions, however, because they tried to respect county and municipal lines, as I recall, resulted in population deviations of under 10 percent, but those deviations were much higher than the ones that the Supreme Court said in the late decisions that I’m talking about would be tolerated regarding congressional districts. There was a belief that that principle would be applied across the board, both to congressional districts and to legislative districts, and that would have wiped out the plan that had been adopted.
And I was quite familiar with all of this. And it seemed to me an instance of taking a good principle, which is one person, one vote, and taking it to extremes, requiring that districts be exactly equal in population, which did not seem to me to be a sensible idea.