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Judicial appointments

Fri, Jul 17th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

As we know, the Untied States Senate has the responsibility to advise the president and consent (or not) to his nominations of federal and Supreme Court judges and other officials. When the judicial candidates testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, they feel obligated to state that their past and future rulings were and will be based solely and purely on case precedent and strict interpretation of the applicable law. Their education, upbringing, religion, or ethnicity did not and will not color their decisions. How can this be? Are we not products of all of these things? Are we not children of our ancestors? Aren't our ideas, attitudes, and even our interpretation of the law influenced in some manner by who we are and where we came from? To deny this is to deny our very selves, our very being.

Of course we expect judges to strictly interpret the law. We expect fair and impartial rulings based on precedent. But to expect one's personal history to be absent from thought and deliberation is a fallacy.

This brings us to the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Sonia Sotomayor. To suggest, as some Republicans are, that Judge Sotomayor will be biased in her decisions because she is a Latina is as ludicrous as saying that Justice Mr. Scalia is against abortion because he is Catholic. Both allegations may be true, but maybe they are not. What is true is that people bring all of their experiences to bear, consciously or unconsciously, when they make decisions. Why not acknowledge that fact? Instead we have judges and judicial candidates claiming they are not and will not be influenced by anything but the law. This does not seem humanly possible.

In the evaluation of those being considered for the Supreme Court we should know the nominee's background, education, previous law experiences and rulings. We should expect them to be as fair as possible, to have a reverence for law and precedent and to apply these attributes to their decisions.

To expect them to not bring to their decisions their own life experiences is to ask them not to be human beings.

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