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Sotomayor's "Wise Latina" Speech, In Context

6:28 PM, May 31, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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On Fox News Sunday, the boss says that the more you look at Sotomayor's 2001 "wise Latina" speech the worse it is (read the full text of her speech here):

KRISTOL: ... It was a carefully prepared text, published in La Raza Law Journal.

WALLACE: This is her 2001 speech at Berkeley Law School.

KRISTOL: Right, at Berkeley Law School, at a symposium, speaking from a text, a total endorsement of, in my view, identity politics, counting by race, a Latina judge's voice.

She goes so far that the next day Judge Richard Paez of the Ninth Circuit, who is a liberal Clinton appointee, basically rebukes her and makes a big point of saying, "Look, I'm proud to be a Latino. I bring my experiences to the court. But I took an oath to judge, and I really believe we have to judge impartially and it can't just be an aspiration," and he didn't mention her name, but he basically is rebutting her speech the night before that somehow impartial judging is merely an aspiration.

So I think she has to account for this speech, not just for one sentence.

The Chicago-Tribune's Steve Chapman sounds a similar note:

Sotomayor, [her supporters] point out, also said judges "must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate."

Her allies have a point. Anyone who reads the whole speech will indeed find that her comment wasn't as bad as it sounds. It was worse.

What is clear from the full text is that her claim to superior insight was not a casual aside or an exercise in devil's advocacy. On the contrary, it fit neatly into her overall argument, which was that the law can only benefit from the experiences and biases that female and minority judges bring with them.

Also, see Scott Johnson's take here.