June 9, 2009 | Commentary on Legal Issues, Political Thought

The Constitution Must Trump Racial Politics

Standing atop of the U.S. Supreme Court sits Lady Justice dressed in a Greco-Roman garment. She wears a blindfold, signifying an essential element of our country's judicial system: Justice requires that all are treated fairly under the law, regardless of whether the person appearing before the court is rich or poor, white or black, man or woman.

Recently, President Barack Obama made history by appointing a Hispanic woman to the Supreme Court. Yet the question now is whether the nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, would adhere to the crucial principle of impartial justice. The fact that she might not raises serious concerns regarding her nomination to the highest court in the land.

By now, most Americans have read Judge Sotomayor's comments: "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," she announced in a 2001 lecture, later published in a California law journal.

These 32 words have become infamous over the past two weeks. But this isn't the most disturbing part of her oft-quoted law-school speech. Worse are her comments that judges may lack the ability to be impartial. She said she embraces the idea (stated by another judge) that "there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives -- no neutrality, no escape from choice in judging."

That statement seems to ignore the fact that judges take an oath to dispense equal justice. In Sotomayor's view, that apparently just isn't possible. The idea of "impartiality," she added, is merely an aspiration: "[I]t's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others." She therefore doubts whether judges can overcome personal biases "in all or even in most cases."

Not only does Sotomayor opine that blind justice is impossible -- she questions whether it's even desirable. She "wonder[s] whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society."

So when a litigant stands before a judge in court he must not place his hope in the blindfold over Lady Justice's eyes? He must instead hope that the personal life experience of that particular judge will work out in his favor?

As a Hispanic, I can't help but feel a tremendous amount of pride that the president has tapped a Hispanic to replace Justice David Souter in the United States Supreme Court. Her ascendance is testament to the endless opportunities found in this country for all its citizens --regardless of race, creed or gender.

And it's precisely because of this that we must defend the values of our country. That is, in order to ensure that future Americans enjoy living in this -- the land of the free -- our laws must apply to all, and they must be applied without bias or favoritism. In short, our justices must apply the law fairly, regardless of ethnicity, color, gender or cree.

Anything else falls excruciatingly short.

Israel Ortega is a Senior Media Services Associate at The Heritage Foundation.

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Israel Ortega Contributor, The Foundry
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