Confirm Judge Sotomayor Quickly
Posted on June 02, 2009
By Benjamin Todd Jealous When a case comes before me involving.... someone who is an immigrant — I can't help but think of my own ... I have to say to myself, "You know, this could be your grandfather, this could be your grandmother. They were not citizens at one time, and they were people who came to this country. 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." Those words were said not by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's stellar choice for the Supreme Court, but by conservative Justice Samuel Alito during his 2006 confirmation hearings. The right wing has launched a vitriolic attack on Sotomayor's similar words, taken out of context, when she acknowledges the richness of one's experiences' impact on decisions. Her detractors conveniently leave out that she goes on to state the importance of judges assuring their rulings are only influenced by the law. Indeed, what distinguishes the inspiring career of Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a judicious adherence to the law. Her powerful life story of rising from the housing projects of the south Bronx to the halls of Princeton and Yale are no less impressive than the fact that she brings more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years. The right has also attacked her ruling upholding New Haven in a case where white firefighters sued the city for rejecting an exam that no African Americans had passed. The city rejected the exam because the test violated Title VII, the federal civil rights law that prevents discrimination in employment and requires employers to consider the racial impact of their hiring and promotion procedures either inadvertent or intentional. The law's goal is to bring us closer to the American ideal of fairness and opportunity for all. To have reversed the city's decision would have taken the judicial activist position that right wing conservatives decry, overturning a longstanding tenet of our nation's civil rights laws. In another case, Judge Sotomayor ruled against the civil rights claims of two African American airline passengers who alleged they had been involuntarily bumped off a flight because of their race. Neither case reveals any bias other than a strong commitment to rule with a meticulous regard for our nations laws. The nomination of the first Latina to join the Supreme Court is a moment that our nation should celebrate. I urge the Senate to reject the shrill exhortations of the far right and not politicize such an important choice, but make its decision expeditiously based on her unimpeachable record as an outstanding prosecutor, litigator, and trial and appellate judge.