Flaws critics find in court choice make her shine

As the Senate begins to consider Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court it is dismaying to see conservatives attack her for being philosophic and intellectually honest.
They found that she made these comments: personal experiences, she said, “affect the facts that judges choose to see.” And “I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging,” she said in a speech in 2001, “but I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”
Please. Is there really anyone out there who doesn’t understand that their personal experiences affect the conclusions they reach about important matters?
Aren’t Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas, two of her early critics, fully aware of how their judgments are skewed by the decades they have spent fighting as unrelenting partisans for Republican causes? Can anyone imagine either man announcing that he was unqualified to be a Supreme Court justice because of his partisanship?
What Sotomayor was saying is that she recognizes that life experiences affect the way a person looks at things that matter. This observation will make it easier for her to weigh all of the facts in a case before her and to deal with the predispositions she recognizes she has as she works toward conclusions.
Any psychologist will tell you that the most prejudiced people they encounter are those convinced that they have no prejudices.
Judge Sotomayor was picked by President Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy because she is a Latina woman; because she rose to the top of the nation’s legal world from poverty through intelligence, grit and hard work; because she has a sparkling record of 17 years as a sitting judge, a sterling academic record at Princeton and Yale and makes everyone’s list of outstanding lawyers and jurists.
This catalog of qualifications is in order of political importance. Sotomayor will be the first Latino to serve on the high court. Her nomination caters to the fastest growing political group in the country. Republicans who become too abusive in their opposition risk driving the Latino vote still deeper into the Democratic fold. When confirmed, as seems highly likely since Democrats hold 59 Senate votes, she will be-come the second woman on the nine-member court and only the third ever to serve in U.S. history.
More than half of the U.S. population is female.
Sonia Sotomayor will bring to the court a life story that will make it easier for her to understand how the law may affect the poor, the immigrant, the person of color and every woman in the land. Her understanding will, she agrees without apology, color her decisions. But that does not mean that her profound respect for the U.S. Constitution will be diluted or that her goal will be to rewrite the law rather than interpret it to the very best of her ability.
What her critics have found is convincing evidence that she knows herself. Isn’t that the first step toward wisdom?

— Emerson Lynn, jr.