Taken from Sotomayor’s Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture in 2001, which she delivered at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, here is the context:
… Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.
However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage. …
Read the entire speech here.
” My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar”. This is the hope of most people about a judge, but it is not limited to or defined by any stereotypical identity. This kind of statement really is of no use if one is trying to see how someone thinks as this kind of extrapolation, well done or not, is required and done by most of us every day. I hope a judge would be one that sees what many others do not and also sees what others DO see. In accepting “that there will be some based on my gender and Latina heritage…” I hope she means by SOME that decisions she makes are of an unbiased nature, IN ALL CASES REGARDLESS OF GENDER OR HERITAGE. But of course, I would assume all nominees are portrayed by supporters as unbiased. I would think more weight should be given to actual decisions (product) rather than a statement made outside of a court or legal opinion.
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