Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Court is where policy is made"

Those few of you who have followed this blog since it began know my opinion of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Although my denomination belongs, it does not represent my views. It is absurdly doctrinaire in its application of the "wall of separation" between church and state, and, politically, it is comfortable within Washington's liberal establishment. Some recent news, noted on the SDB Exec blog, does nothing to increase my confidence in the organization.

Last week we were informed that the BJC's Executive Director, Brent Walker, met with a delegation of Saudis. One might have hoped that the executive of an organization devoted to religious liberty would have a great deal to say to "nine officials from the Saudi Ministry of Education" about the absence of religious freedom in their country, and the treatment of other religions in the texbooks used in their schools, but no, we are told the meeting was about how the United States practices religious liberty — one somehow doubts that will have any impact on the practices of the Saudi government.

Now we learn of the BJC's enthusiasm for President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Souter on the Supreme Court. The BJC liked Souter a lot:
"More than any other justice, Justice Souter has reflected the Baptist Joint Committee's understanding of the proper interpretation of the religion clauses and how they apply to contemporary church-state issues," said BJC Executive Director J. Brent Walker.
And, they say, Sotomayor will be a really good replacement for Souter. Well, Jeffrey Rosen at The New Republic has been interviewing people who have worked with her, and:
.... The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was "not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench," as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. "She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue." (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, "Will you please stop talking and let them talk?") ...
In a later post Rosen provided this from the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary:
Sotomayor can be tough on lawyers, according to those interviewed. "She is a terror on the bench." "She is very outspoken." "She can be difficult." "She is temperamental and excitable. She seems angry." "She is overly aggressive—not very judicial. She does not have a very good temperament." "She abuses lawyers." "She really lacks judicial temperament. She behaves in an out of control manner. She makes inappropriate outbursts." "She is nasty to lawyers. She doesn't understand their role in the system—as adversaries who have to argue one side or the other. She will attack lawyers for making an argument she does not like."
She also seems to be prone statements that might properly be be considered racist. From Stuart Taylor in National Journal Magazine:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life." — Judge Sonia Sotomayor, in her Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Law in 2001

The above assertion and the rest of a remarkable speech to a Hispanic group by Sotomayor — widely touted as a possible Obama nominee to the Supreme Court — has drawn very little attention in the mainstream media since it was quoted deep inside The New York Times on May 15. ....

Sotomayor also referred to the cardinal duty of judges to be impartial as a mere "aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others." And she suggested that "inherent physiological or cultural differences" may help explain why "our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging." ....

Indeed, unless Sotomayor believes that Latina women also make better judges than Latino men, and also better than African-American men and women, her basic proposition seems to be that white males (with some exceptions, she noted) are inferior to all other groups in the qualities that make for a good jurist.

Any prominent white male would be instantly and properly banished from polite society as a racist and a sexist for making an analogous claim of ethnic and gender superiority or inferiority.

Imagine the reaction if someone had unearthed in 2005 a speech in which then-Judge Samuel Alito had asserted, for example: "I would hope that a white male with the richness of his traditional American values would reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman who hasn't lived that life" — and had proceeded to speak of "inherent physiological or cultural differences." ....
So far, we find that she is "a bully on the bench" and a believer that legal judgment is enhanced by one's gender and ethnicity. She seems to have applied what she believes.

Sotomayor will almost certainly be approved. The BJC will be happy. I won't be. I'm very sorry we are still affiliated with the Baptist Joint Committee.

Seventh Day Baptist - SDB Exec Blog, The Case Against Sotomayor, National Journal Magazine - Identity Politics And Sotomayor

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