Making headlines as of late is Judge Sonia Sotomayor who has been nominated by President Obama to become the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice. If confirmed, which is likely, Sotomayor would be the third female to serve in the position (after Sandra Day O’Connor under Reagan and Ruth Bader Ginsberg under Clinton). She would also be the first Latino judge to serve on the court.
First of all, we would like to congratulate the Latino communities here in Seattle and nationwide, for this is sure to be a great milestone for them. This is also another good sign that Obama is continuing to strive toward his goal of changing America for the better. We appreciate that he is always thinking outside the box, looking in new and unexpected places for talent.
Obama, in explaining his nomination of Sotomayor, emphasized the importance of empathy in choosing a justice.
Critics are saying that empathy is Obama’s code word for judicial activism. To put it simply, an activist judge will reach beyond the Constitution and consider current events and values in his or her decisions. In contrast, a constructionist judge would look only at the text in making decisions.
Whether the critics are right about Obama’s intentions or not, we think that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to call Sotomayor an activist as the world we live in today is far more complex than perhaps the original framers of the Constitution could have imagined. Additionally, in spite of all the emphasis put on Sotomayor’s ethnicity, her religious beliefs, her gender, and concerns that all of those factors would color her decisions — her track record speaks for itself, and it has been very moderate.
Empathy, in addition to intelligence and a thorough knowledge of the law, is important in a judge. Empathy doesn’t mean that Sotomayor would feel sorry for someone and therefore would not make him or her accountable for misdeeds. Rather, empathy means that a judge would be understanding and open-minded when deciding cases. The U.S. Supreme Court decides the toughest cases, so this is important. Sotomayor has even insisted that she would follow law, not personality, when reaching decisions.
Sotomayor, who grew up in a Bronx housing project and was raised by a single mother, has accomplished much more than many with her humble beginnings. With an Ivy League education, she has led a distinguished career in law and has served as a pioneer and role model in her field. We look forward to seeing her in her new role. ♦