Bench Memos

Is That All Justice Sotomayor Wants?

From a recent post at The Weekly Standard:

[Justice Sonia] Sotomayor, one of the Court’s more left-leaning as well as publicly gregarious members, answered questions from interviewer Bill Press and the audience during the course of more than an hour, speaking at length on her formative years in law, her judicial philosophy relative to the late Antonin Scalia and her more originalist contemporaries, and some specific matters of case law she has addressed as a justice during her tenure. One was affirmative action, which has come before the Supreme Court in such cases as Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action (2014) and the Fisher v. University of Texas decisions (2013, 2016).

“Do we still need it?” she asked of the general idea. “If we are committed to ensuring that as a society everyone is stepping outside of their sort of regular routine and stepping outside of what’s easy to do to create a more equal society, then we do need, if not affirmative action, we need that spirit that says we want to be more than we are. We want to be a country that stands as a beacon for every one of its citizens.”

The first of President Obama’s two appointees to the High Court, a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton University, has said she benefitted in part from affirmative action, as she reaffirmed Tuesday. But she also touted the merits of her academic and professional credentials; she’s been a federal judge since Bill Clinton first became president.

“I’m a person who very much doesn’t believe in the old Bakke type of affirmative action, of quotas and things like that,” she said, referencing the 1978 landmark Supreme Court case. “But I do believe that we have to be committed to ensuring that the processes we have in place to select are really selecting on the basis of potential and merit, and not on the basis that happens in many situations: of ingrained habits.”

Well, gee, I too would be happy if universities got rid of “quotas and things like that” and instead were “really selecting on the basis of potential and merit.” That’s not what universities are doing or are likely to do for so long as the Supreme Court allows them to engage in racial discrimination, but it’s very interesting that even the left-most person on the Court feels obliged to distance herself from what the Court is allowing and schools are doing.

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