Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Wise Latina

Judge Sonia Sotomayor is slated for confirmation as a justice to the Supreme Court of the United States. When she places her hand on the Bible and takes the oath of office, I will reflect on the words contained within that oath:

"I…do solemnly swear…that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me…under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."

The phrase that stands out to me is “…I will administer justice without respect to persons…”

This is an important issue within our Constitution: the idea of equal justice under the law. Justice is not to be dispensed with preference for one group of people or another. It is a principle that is basic to Republican thought.

Judge Sotomayor does not subscribe to this principle. Her rulings and speech favor giving preferences to one type of person over another. The recurring theme is that her preferences must disadvantage Republicans, either by eroding Republican principles or by ruling against Republicans themselves.

How do I come up with this? A good place to start is with the Constitution, where Americans are guaranteed equal justice under the law. Unfortunately, there are instances where this has not been the case. Because of this imperfection, individual justices feel they must bend the law to make it more “just” for selected groups.

In the case of Ricci v. DeStefano, Judge Sotomayor ruled that firefighters with dark skin tone deserve preference in achieving promotion. She gave preference to a group that overwhelmingly votes against Republicans, and in so doing, disadvantaged another group.

Our anti-Republican culture generally approves of this tactic. We accept that it is an honorable task to try to improve on the concept of equal justice for all. The problem is that when you deviate from the principle, you give selected human beings the power to decide who gets preferences and who doesn’t. Judge Sotomayor seems to relish the power that comes with this philosophical break from the Constitution, and characterizes herself as “a wise Latina.”

At least one person is not happy with her use of anti-Republican power. Take the case of Jeffrey Deskovic. Mr. Deskovic spent 16 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Photo by James Estrin/The New York Times

When Mr. Deskovic’s appeal reached Judge Sotomayor’s court, it was turned down. Apparently, Judge Sotomayor did not think Mr. Deskovic was deserving. However, as Mr Deskovic says, “Innocence can never be ruled as out of order in court.”

Rather than rule “without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich,” Judge Sotomayor prefers to be above this standard and issue preferences to those who support her political beliefs.

When she takes her oath of office, will it be done with a wink?

As she recites the oath, perhaps her fingers will be crossed behind her back.

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