So President Obama has announced his pick to replace David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. It is Sonia Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals. She would be the third woman and – yes it’s true – the first Hispanic to become a Supreme Court justice.
There’s some debate about that, actually, because Benjamin Cardozo, who served in the 1930s, was Portuguese-Jewish. I’ve written before about the complexity of pinpointing exactly who is Hispanic (my first post, in fact). However, I’m going to be bold here and say that referring to Cardozo as Latino is the stretchiest of stretches. And I’m well aware that “stretchiest” is not a word; that’s how much I mean it.
Therefore, Sotomayor would be the first. That’s enough to get my attention. A brief look at her record indicates that she’s slightly liberal, which pleases me (a fact that will surprise no one who has read this blog).
She seems to have the respect of her colleagues, a fierce work ethic, and a solid, fairly noncontroversial record. So why isn’t she a slam-dunk for the job?
Well, some commentators have questioned her intelligence. I find this perplexing.
If someone can graduate from Princeton and Yale Law School (with honors), work as a high-level judge for seventeen years, be considered for one of the most important jobs in the country, and yet still be considered dim… well, it either means that there’s something seriously botched in our educational and political system, or the standards for regular Americans to be considered “bright” are appallingly low (I don’t know anybody who has her credentials, yet I mistakenly thought I knew some smart people).
One has to wonder if her supposed tendency to be “kind of a bully on the bench” and the assertion that she “has an inflated opinion of herself and is domineering” have influenced the opinion of her intellect.
Of course, I have no idea if Sotomayor is really a bully or not. But Antonin Scalia regularly gets cranky, and people respect his assertiveness. Perhaps we just don’t like to see that behavior in Hispanic women.
Maybe the description that one of her former clerks offered –that “she’s not shy or apologetic about who she is” – provides sufficient ammo for her critics. But she just sounds to me like a confident Latina.
As such, I hope she gets approved for the gig.