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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 1, 2009 at 4:30 PM

Sonia Sotomayor

Abstract interpretation of laws creates chaos

Friday’s editorial on Judge Sonia Sotomayor [“A persuasive choice,” May 29] proves that the editorial board does not understand the role of the judiciary in our government.

The Times asserts that “[t]he Constitution is not a set of abstract rules but laws that require understanding of how they affect real people.” In reality, judges are supposed to be impartial arbiters that apply the law, including the Constitution, as actually written, not as they would like it to be to achieve some particular objective. It is the province of legislatures, the people’s elected representatives, to weigh the consequences of the laws they pass and amend them as necessary.

If judges decide cases based on individual outcomes rather than what the law itself requires, not only do they usurp the authority of the legislature, they create legal chaos because the law no longer has fixed and universal meaning.

“Equal justice under law” itself becomes a dead letter.

— Darren Ritchie, Woodinville

Krauthammer’s hypocrisy on empathy

In a column by Charles Krauthammer [“Make Sotomayor defend her judicial philosophy,” Opinion, May 30], he writes, “Sotomayor shares President Obama’s vision of empathy as lying at the heart of judicial decision making.” He criticizes her decision on the New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci because she did not show empathy for the plaintiffs.

Krauthammer cannot have it both ways.

— Mark Saporito, Seattle

Liberals would howl if white man said same things

I dreamed last night that America’s new president nominated a white man for the Supreme Court. CNN discovered that in a 2001 speech, the nominee had said: “I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina female who hasn’t lived that life.” Then: “… our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.”

I dreamed Democrats thence howled that the nominee was a sexist, racist bigot.

Congress cried that he’d just admitted he would rule according to his racial and sexual bias instead of the Constitution.

En masse, the media went apoplectic, screaming there was no place on the U.S. Supreme Court for such an obviously sexist racial supremacist.

The president dropped the nominee faster than the Falcons shucked Michael Vick.

Then I awoke to find that it was President Obama’s nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, who actually made those exact bigoted remarks about white males. FOX ran the story, the rest of the media ignored it and Obama is dismissing it all as partisan nonsense.

One assumes this shameful hypocrisy must be because white males have no “richness” in their “experiences.”

— William Slusher, Okanogan

Understand the context before judging the judge

Leonard Pitts Jr. ‘s column on Sonia Sotomayor, “Diversity on the Supreme Court — what a wonderful idea” [Opinion, May 31] undermines the fallacy that identity politics is the product of liberal ideology. Noting that 108 of the 112 past and current justices have been white males, he insightfully writes, ” [f]olks who profess concern about identity politics would do well to keep those numbers in mind.”

Yet Pitts misquotes Judge Sotomayor. She did not write that “a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience” will usually have better judgment than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Rather, she said that she “would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” Who among us does not hope that a richness of experiences is informative in the decisions we make?

The full text of Sotomayor’s speech illustrates the breadth of her intellect. “I am reminded each day,” she said, “that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives …”

All should read the complete speech.

— Mark Kantor, Seattle

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