Should a Supreme Court Justice be empathetic?

Posted: May 26, 2009 in news, politics
Tags: , , , , , ,

No. Absolutely not. It’s the job of the Supreme Court to uphold the law. Period. But not according to Obama.  “I said earlier that I thought empathy was an important quality, and I continue to believe that. You have to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you, but you have to be able to stand in somebody’s else shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living.”

It doesn’t matter how the law affects an individual. It’s not the job of the court to make laws. It’s their job to make sure the law is applied equally. Just read the Supreme Court Oath of Office: “I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.” I will administer justice without respect to persons… Now if a law is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court decides that, they can base their decision based on the Constitution. Then Congress can decide what to do about that law.

Empathy is fine. Empathy is essential for when we go about deciding how we deal with people we interact with. But empathy has no place in the courts. Empathy should be left for the legislators. It should be they who empathize when writing a law (as well as making sure it’s Constitutional).

But now we have an empathetic nominee to replace Justice Souter, Sonia Sotomayor. Is it any wonder why I’m not excited? I did some research on her (it took all of about 5 minutes) and I really don’t like what I see. Let’s start with her record on controversial issues, which I got from CNN.com. First, and my biggest problem with her voting record, has to do with the New Haven firefighter case. “Sotomayor was part of a three-judge panel that ruled in February 2008 to uphold a lower court decision supporting the City of New Haven’s decision to throw out the results of an exam to determine promotions within the city’s fire department. Only one Hispanic and no African-American firefighters qualified for promotion based on the exam”. So instead of promoting a white firefighter or the lone hispanic firefighter who qualified based on the exam, they just threw all the exams out and didn’t promote anyone. And she was okay with that. Are you? This case is currently in front of the Supreme Court.

“In a 2005 ruling, Sotomayor overturned a lower court decision and allowed investors to bring certain types of fraud lawsuits against investment firms in state court rather than in federal court. The lower court had agreed with the defendant Merrill Lynch’s argument that the suits were invalid because the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 required that such suits be brought only in federal court. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned Sotomayor’s ruling in an 8-0 decision, saying that the federal interest in overseeing securities market cases prevails, and that doing otherwise could give rise to “wasteful, duplicative litigation.” Dabit vs. Merrill Lynch, 395 F.3d 25 (2005)” Would you want your state courts tied up with these “wasteful, duplicative” lawsuits? Apparently she does.

What about this statement she made at UCBerkeley in 2001: “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”. Doesn’t that seem somewhat racist and sexist? I am more apt to agree with Justice O’Connor, who said: “…a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases”.

And thus the point of this rant. It’s wisdom, not empathy, that our Judiciary Branch needs.

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