The ad quotes from a lengthy speech where Judge Sotomayor warned that “[p]ersonal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see” and expressed her “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 ad cites the quotes as evidence that Sotomayor would not treat everyone who appears before her equally.
Judge Sotomayor conceded today that her now-famous “wise Latina woman” quote was a poor word choice, but it is clear from context that Sotomayor’s speech says the opposite of what the ad claims. Indeed, Sotomayor says in no uncertain terms that judges must ensure that their decisions are never compromised by prejudice:
I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.
Moreoever, Judge Sotomayor’s statements that her own experiences as a Latina impact how she views her role as a judge mirror similar statements by conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who said that “[w]hen 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.”
The racial attacks on Judge Sotomayor have no basis in reality. Perhaps that explains why even conservative elected officials continue to distance themselves from the right-wing special interest groups’ race-driven smear campaign.
The Judicial Confirmation Network is now stepping back from their ad’s racial attacks. Wendy Long, JCN’s Chief Counsel, now says that “[s]omehow, this important debate is turning into an argument about race and identity politics . . . . Many of us in the conservative movement believe that Judge Sotomayor is intelligent, and that, at least on paper, she has professional qualifications that are certainly sufficient for occupying a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
,A study by SCOTUSBlog‘s Tom Goldstein finds that, of Judge Sotomayor’s 50 most recent race discrimination cases, only 3 were decided in favor of the plaintiff. In other words, contrary to right-wing claims that Judge Sotomayor unfairly favors minorities, she apparently only rules in favor of discrimination plaintiffs 6% of the time. Moreover, every single one of these 50 cases were unanimous.