Bench Memos

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Senator Leahy Leads With the Race Card


Senator Leahy’s opening statement leads with the race card, decrying a past in which minority nominees were asked unfair questions during confirmation hearings.  Notably, he highlighted assertions about the so-called “Jewish mind” that were made during the confirmation hearings of Justice Brandeis, and suggested in conclusion that we should be beyond that.  Indeed we should, but regrettably, it is Judge Sotomayor who has made statements like this.  In her infamous La Raza speech, she endorsed the idea of physiological differences in reasoning, stating:

* “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences . . . our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”

* “I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address.” (emphasis added)

    Contary to Leahy’s suggestion, it isn’t racially insensitive for Senators to ask about these incendiary statements.  Rather, taking up Leahy’s theme, we should be beyond the kind of thinking exemplified more by Judge Sotomayor’s statements than by those of a best begotten past that he chose to quote.  The Senators need to demand answers as to why Judge Sotomayor apparently is not.


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