Friday, July 17, 2009

Sen. Sessions’ Idea of a Supreme Court Justice: A Blinfolded Umpire!


At yesterday’s confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor, Sen. Sessions drew some embarrassed laughter when he said, “And, Mr. Henderson, it's good to work with you.

"Senator Leahy and I are talking, during these hearing{s}, we're going to do that crack cocaine thing that you and I have talked about before. We got to...”

With a little prompting, Sessions rephrased his comment: “We're going to reduce the burden of penalties in some of the crack cocaine cases and make them fair.”

Sessions ought to have been even more embarrassed by another of his remarks quoted in today’s column by Ellen Goodman:

The members of the Judiciary Committee riffed on the idea of judge-as-umpire. Alas, no comment could trump the pre-hearing pitch by Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama for a “blindfolded justice calling the balls and strikes fairly and objectively.’’ Yes! Just what we need in the big leagues! An umpire wearing a blindfold!

Goodman continued:

But this was not just jock-talk. Or a play for impartiality. It was a thinly veiled anxiety attack at the idea that Sonia Sotomayor might be a team player for Liberals v. Conservatives or, worse yet, the Girls and Latina Team v. the White Boys.

The specter haunting Sotomayor was that “Wise Latina Woman.’’ What seemed radical to the Republican committeemen was her hint that a WLW “with the richness of her experiences’’ might make wiser decisions than . . . THEM! She might even, as Senator John Cornyn of Texas said darkly, want to “advance causes or groups.’’

This was the lineup at the hearings. Sotomayor sat stoically while a pugnacious Sessions lectured her on the role of a judge and a patronizing Lindsey Graham told her she had a reputation as a “bit of a bully.’’

The would-be first Latina justice faced a committee with only two women members in order to get confirmed by a Senate with only 17 women for a seat on a court with only one other woman. And yet Sotomayor had to prove that she wasn’t biased: “Men and women (are) equally capable of being wise and fair judges.’’

Also at stake - or at bat, if you prefer - were the judge’s earlier musings about the importance of different life experiences: “I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on gender and my Latina heritage.’’ She also said: “I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society.’’ A horrified Sessions called this “philosophically incompatible with the American system.’’

In response, Goodman cites an unconscionable quote by G. Gordon Liddy:

I am, of course, charmed to see conservatives decrying gender differences as un-American since they long used differences to justify women’s second-class status. Better they should turn their wrath on talk-show host G. Gordon Liddy, who said of Sotomayor: “Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating.’’

Goodman herself has done a disservice to women lately in comments she’s made in reference to both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. Regarding Palin, I don’t think Goodman ever fully grasped the possibility of disagreeing with her on the issues without maligning her personally. But I give Goodman credit for coming through on behalf of Sotomayor in today’s column that she concludes as follows:

Yes, we are more than a sum total of our experiences. No, the huge majority of cases have nothing to do with race or gender, or being a diabetic for that matter. Yes, judges see through their own lens and beyond it.

But if I may revert to the sports metaphor, this judge who thinks deeply about both life and the law is ready to take the field for the Supremes.

No comments:

Post a Comment