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May 26, 2009

Focus on the Family Action on Sotomayor

Focus's political arm released a statement attributed to Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht. As with other pro-life groups, the statement doesn't talk about Judge Sotomayor's legal decisions but rather focuses on the 2001 Berkeley speech and the 2005 Duke panel.

“With President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, the country is again confronted with the question: What type of justices should sit on the Court? Americans overwhelmingly support justices who base decisions on the law and the Constitution, practice judicial restraint, and believe judges should never make policy," Hausknecht said in the written statement. “From what we know about her, though, Judge Sotomayor considers policy-making to be among a judge’s roles, no matter what the law says. She disregards the notion of judicial impartiality, even stating that as a Latina woman with her life experience she should ‘more often than not’ reach a better conclusion than a ‘white male who hasn't lived that life.’"

Comments

I would think that empathy is necessary for impartiality. How else could one understand "mercy," a traditional judge's obligation in the name of justice?

Not to mention that rich, usually "white," Christian leaders publicly denouncing everyone with maybe some empathy towards the poor and downtrodden, likely says much to the rest of the world...and also maybe something about Christian mission work in general. Maybe "they" don't really care about the poor and downtrodden...what they maybe care about is manipulating the poor and downtrodden for the politics of greed reasons?

It also suggests that rich, usually "white," and powerful Christian leaders like James Dobson, expect empathy free courts to rule for their favor, but not in my "Mr. Average Income Citizen's" favor, let alone a poor person's plea for redress of their grievances...which suggests some sort of empathy for someone, right?

A Mr. Peterson notes: white males have been the source of all of the world's evil. Non-whites have never oppressed each other.

We need a Supreme Court Justice who makes it clear that the rule of law has been a bad thing, used solely to oppress the poor.

Hear, hear Mr. Peterson.

when will fotf disband themselves? they are irrelevant as far as i'm concerned.

Aw come on people. there are 8 different topics on this appointment. Couldn't you have condensed them into 2 or 3

Awwwwwwww shucks!!!!!!!!!!

Had Ms Sotomayor's comment regarding a Latina woman being more able to reach a better conclusion, been voiced analgously by a white male (i.e., a white man more able to come to a better conclusion) it would be rightfully denigrated as blatantly racist.
Why is her comment being given a pass ?

Judge Sotomayor is a good pick for judge. It's time for a latino to sit on the bench. Latinos represent a large percentage of the population. The self righteous religious people dislike anyone that will serve and make decisions fairly for all people and not just rich and white people. Ms. Sotomayor will be voted in because there are not enough republicans to block the nomination. President Obama picked the best person for the position.

I agree with Gregory Peterson on empathy vs impartiality. Unless the nominee passes what is politically known as the so-called Christian litmus tests, some who give Christianiity a bad name prefer not to know who their neighbors are and refuse to understand their language so how could they begin to love them?

Because Mdvat,

From the start of this country, white men have been top of the food chain
===================================================
Had Ms Sotomayor's comment regarding a Latina woman being more able to reach a better conclusion, been voiced analgously by a white male (i.e., a white man more able to come to a better conclusion) it would be rightfully denigrated as blatantly racist.
Why is her comment being given a pass ?

I have lived in minority neighborhoods and have great sympathy for and empathy with those who are preyed upon by the lawless and the violent.

Why love only the violent and the lawbreakers? Love those who want a chance to live in a fair world.

But perhaps it is easier to feel holier-than-thou and self righteous about "white males." Yet there are many countries in the world where the plight of the poor is much worse. So what evidence (other than reverse hatred and bigotry) is there that "white males" are the source of such evil?

The bad news is that it might be that human nature is a problem.

Justin,
So this country has been worse than Uganda and Rwanda?

Racism is racism, at whatever scale and by whomever practiced.

Your statement is racist.

This opposition is very dishonest because it takes statements out of context and falsifies their meaning. There is no racist meaning or intent. People without empathy are clinically psychopaths (or robots) and are certainly incapable of understanding that "mercy triumphs over judgment". For what it's worth, I have represented Christian ministries and other parties in cases all the way to the USSC.

"empathy is necessary for impartiality"

Empathy is the opposite of impartiality. It may still be a good thing to have empathy, but compassion is NOT impartial. It is proactive.

The first question is whether the compassion is appropriate to the victim or to the perpetrator. And if it becomes a case of classes and groups, do we punish the victim if they are in the "wrong" group and have compassion to the perpetrator if they are in the "right" group?

rpt,

At least your statement has some content. Would you like to refer to specific statements and then place them in context?

The court is not psychopathic if it is impartial. It is supposed to be impartial.

Leviticus 19:15
"‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor."

Judge based on the facts of the case, not the color or economic level of the parties.

Good to see some Christians trickling in.

Empathy is great but not if it threatens impartiality and turns a judge into a one person judge and government. Judges who usurp their role as law interpretors and play unelected politician are extremely dangerous and a threat to democracy. I believe her socio-cultural background could enrich the court by providing a superior understanding of situations and some of this could derive from empathy but her problem with confining her judgements to law is a huge problem.

Greg,

I suspect that the suggestion that Christian leaders publically denounce anyone who has empathy for poor and downtrodden is disingenous. Surely anyone would know that people like Dobson would never do that. Surely Dobson's concern is the grave danger of a judge doing the wrong thing not her positive characteristics. Good intentions assist a good judge but if they override compiled wisdom they reduce the judge to a very powerful and dangerous do-gooder. Was it a straw man or did you seriously think that?

In any case the key thing is judicial integrity and being impartial so that justice isn't dispensed based solely on the feelings of a single person. Impartiality could be based on something otherwise positive like empathy or something negative like a pro-abortion obsession. Justice which is arbitrary and based on human error is not justice.

A judge who overrides law made by elected representatives and which have developed over a long period of time thus representing accumulated wisdom is not an effective judge but instead a dictator irrespective of whether or not they do it for good intent.

Christian Lawyer,

I appreciate your attempt to represent Sotomayor more completely.

"I willingly accept that we who judge 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."

That puts the best possible light on her statement about a Latina making a "better" decision. It is still a worrisome statement and would draw great outrage if made by a white male. But if Sotomayor sees her position as representing an additional viewpoint, but not a separate agenda, then I am less dismayed.

These criticisms of Judge Sotomayer, centered around remarks made in a couple of speeches years ago(and, I believe, taken entirely out of context) are at best intellectually dishonest.I don't believe many of those posting here would support any Supreme Court nomination made by President Obama (or probably any other democrat for that matter).How many of you decided you didn't like what Judge Sotomayer has said in the past after hearing her being lambasted by that shining example of political correctness Rush Limbaugh this afternoon?

She is a wonderful selection.
Listen to the FULL context of the the Latino woman conversation in the context of what and where.

A man has a unique male perspective.
A woman has a unique women perspective
etc ad infinity
THAT IS ALL THAT WAS SAID.
We need to stop pulling things out of context.
We should all use our full intelligence.

Susan,

You're joking, I hope. When President Somers of Harvard said that, he was forced to resign.

My apologies for my spelling! President Summers of Harvard.

may i suggest whoever is judge considers that the world's smallest minority is REDHEADS. next to that is NATURAL BLONDS,the fastest disappearing minority. the most "average" person, some years ago anyway, was a 17/18 ? year old CHINEESE GIRL. arn't they some ODD thoughts?

if i were this judge i would ponder why people are leaving latino cuba on inner tubes, latino mexico by the droves over the guarded fences, and latino puerto rico, before bragging about being latino.

why do these people fight their way IN to a "white guys" county? is it because the "white guys" were generous and fair minded? how many 100's of thousands of "white guys" have died building and protecting the freedoms of USA?

how can anyone who insists killing babies is ok, make "wise" decisions for other people?

I did not say that "white" males are the source of all the world's evil. White identifying males, however, were the instigators of America's worst evils...though why that was so is complex and not a "racial" thing. Everyone can do evil, and most countries have, in part, a history that is not something to boast about.

I have been accused of being a "professional Black" by a religious right apologist, but in fact, I'm a professional "Norwegian" American.

People who have recycled the massive resistance, Virginia Machine, states' rights tactics of my childhood against a different American demographic, as religious right leaders have certainly done (with full knowledge of the past and how those things were used against Black people), can fairly be accused of being racist-like bigots who have learned nothing and have repented of nothing...no matter what their ancestral ethnicity.

For an example, don't forget who Pat Robertson's father was...a signer of the Southern Manifesto and an unapologetic "Nordic Nation" supremacist and a Senatorial leader in the the "massive resistance" campaign against civil rights (While CT was worrying about the erosion of states' rights)...for starters. Yet his son. Pat, has written that he's an esteemed Constitutional scholar, if memory serves, and called for a return of state's rights, the political theory of white male Protestant, and/or class privilege.

I was talking about appearances of Christian "white" identifying leaders denouncing empathy towards the poor and downtrodden. The appearance is that people like Dobson, a well known and quite infamous bigot (with a disgusting bigotry hardly confined to "white" identifying males), can only amplify that perception.

Not to mention, if memory serves, the revelation by a former bigwig in Focus on the Family, Gil Alexander-Moegerle, that the organization moved to Colorado Springs, in part, because of the low percentage of "minority" people there and the high percentage where it originally was located.

Given the racist-like political tactics, and racist-like use of twisted and pseudoscience attacks against Gay people on of the Focus on the Family websites, empathy is in quite short supply there to begin with...so it's hardly a surprise to hear Dr. Dobson reject it for judicial appointments. Have you read their websites? How do those people sleep at night, anyway? How immoral can one be without actually endorsing violence? Even a CT editorialist has criticized some Christians for unseemly militarist language..and did they get an angry reply from him, if memory serves.

I don't know why impartiality is incompatible with empathy. Someone who steals a loaf of bread in desperation to feed his children, is to be treated by the courts with more mercy than for someone who stole a bottle of perfume because that fragrance was trendy and his girlfriend wanted some...but theft, even to feed hungry children, is still theft and can't be entirely condoned...and neither can a society, a country, a world, that let's children go hungry.

A judge that checks empathy at the door, is also a judge who has checked justice at the door.


Here is a reasonable opinion from a Christian conservative, that is trying to actually look at the nominee, not just have a reaction against anyone that Obama nominates. Try it for some balance

http://www.amconmag.com/larison/2009/05/26/thoughts-on-sotomayor/

Marc

This country has been just as bad as Uganda or Rawanda and in some respects worse

Have you so soon forgotten slavery and the codified laws here that said black people were not even human? Have you soon fogotten the institutionalized racism?

It is worse because we here in America hold ourselves to be morally superior. If we think ourselves morally superior then we have to be held to a higher standard.

Oh - and I'm one of those white guys btw.

Marc are you really surprised, that the ultimate judges of a country whose constitution was written at a time when the ruling white str8 men concluded that the black minority could be owned as slaves would also rule that any other minority's rights could be determined by the needs or morals of the ruling white str8 men?

Or are you just naive?

You cannot make decisions that will effect the lives of people for years to come based solely on empathy but based on the law. If that law is unjust then we should work to change that law, as in slavery, it was the supreme court which handed down that judgement and injustice which was neither just or right. To right that injustice a war was fought and the constitution was amended.

In the words of Martin Luther King, do not judge on the color of one's skin and I will also add, nor on their background.

AS A BLACK PERSON I SAY LET'S STOP LIVING IN THE PAST AND MAKING HARSH UNFAIR AND RACIST JUDGEMENTS ON OTHERS AND JUDGING OTHERS UNFAIRLY BECAUSE THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT OPINION THAN YOU.

Shame, mess... what else?

no supreme court justice (or any other judge at any level) in the history of this nation has ever made a ruling without his (and just lately her) life expeiences influencing that ruling. To expect otherwise would be consider them less than human.

The one important requirment for a Supreme Court Justice is to make a judgement according to the Constitution,not empathy,.
They do not make the law,but judge by the law already known.
they also do not consider other countries laws.it is not important if they are demcrats ,republicans,independents,libertarian.
Nor is it important whether they are spanish,black, White,whatever.
the laws are what they go by.

How we wiggle and squirm -- avoid at all cost! -- the possibility of having to live respectful of rules. (I'm a junior high and high school teacher. Students who "wiggle and squirm" has become part of every day's reality.) Immature humans don't want anyone else to say "This is the rule."
Quite understandably we want "empathy." It might take some of the rigidity out of the rule. I might be able to bend it somewhat (or greatly) to my favor.
When truth be told, our system of government has been designed so that majorities can change the rules if they agree together to do so. But that takes a lot of hard work and careful coordination...and a fair measure of "luck."
Our President Obama, championed that very theme and "Change" carried him right into the White House.
But are we willing to work that hard?! Or do we want the easy way out of having an "empathetic" judge by fiat do for us what we are too lazy to do for ourselves?
I've lived 60+ years -- long enough to see America change greatly. I'm proud of the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of restoratin it has enabled. We still have much to accomplish in that area, however.
I've watched the "gay rights" movement bring change to this land. And the anti-abortion efforts gaining strength. Change does come, usually incrementally. But the laws the people have made are the only thing that can give us security that green is green today and will be green until enough of the people agree to change it to "verde" or whatever they choose.
The people of America have made many right choices over the centuries (and plenty of foolish ones.) Those desiring immigration to this country still vastly out-number those who choose to emmigrate. We've done much right!
May "we, the people" repent of our poor choices and may "We, the People" make the changes that will make us better and strengthen those who need to be lifted up.
The law ought never to be at the capricious whim of some judge's feelings, read "empathy". He/She might wake up some morning "on the wrong side of the bed" and choose to inflict chaos on all of us, when he/she has the power to do so.

I'm judging the religious right by what they're doing right now, which strongly reminds me of what they were doing when I was young.

If they bring back what they were doing in the Fifties and Sixties, only against another group of people, why am I suppose to not notice?

jgw: "why do these people fight their way IN to a "white guys" county?"
He should be ashamed of himself. The whole earth is God's country, not any man's, and we are all sojourners in the land. God will surely call to account all for how we treat the least of these.

On Sotomayor:
How quick we Christians are to put cultural assumptions above Jesus' teaching. What did Jesus say about the law? The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath. How long, then, will it be until we understand the meaning of those words? Whenever law can be reasonably construed to defend the weak and marginalized in our society - and yes, racial minorities are statistically more marginalized than whites - the law must be so construed. And if she, as a wise Latina woman, has experiences that help her understand that truth more clearly than your average white male, well then, maybe she'll make better judicial rulings, extending justice to the marginalized!

Now, I don't think Sotomayor is perfect, and I'd much prefer her to hold positions more along the lines of, say, Justice Thomas. But I do believe that Thomas and Sotomayor both, because of their life experiences (I've read Thomas's autobio - a must-read), really are better attuned than most white males to remember to extend justice whenever it is within their power to do so. I wish she was pro-life; I wish a lot of things. But let us remember the call throughout scripture, particularly eloquent in that passage of Amos which Dr. King quoted in his greatest speech: "Let justice roll down like waters, righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." That is the chief responsibility of a judge, the lens through which all judgments ought be made; for what is a judge if not an agent of justice?

Hey Ted Olsen, the guy issuing all the Sotomayor articles:
could you post maybe one article a day, updating that one multiple times, instead of blasting a half-dozen articles on the same topic over and over and over again in one day? Thanks.

For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment.
-James 2:13

Speaking of Rwanda.....

do some research, all. The genocide in Rwanda was caused in large part by white western missionaries who didnt realize that christian does not equal western, who separated and labeled and inflamed relations between the Hutus and the Tutsis. Hutus and Tutsis were previously peaceful and without a power differential - simply names like "farmer" and "rancher" that showed different jobs.

The White western colonizers started initiating power and status differentials.

And, not to mention, we didnt step in and help that well, did we?

Read the book BEING WHITE, all you white males, and understand all of life not just white life. dont get caught in guilt, but realize with Christ and redemption we can be change agents in the world.

peace.

I still say that we should not pay any attention to the Focus on the Family Political arm. This is the group that predicted the destruction of the US by terrorists if Obama was elected. Of course they also predicted that the Supreme Court would make Christianity illegal, so maybe they are trying to prove themselves right no matter how intellectually dishonest they have to make themselves. Here is the original letter where Focus on the Family "imagined" what the US would be like in 2012 after Obama had been president for four years. http://focusfamaction.edgeboss.net/download/focusfamaction/pdfs/10-22-08_2012letter.pdf

This own blog reported on their inappropriate tactics here http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctpolitics/2008/10/an_obama_admini.html

I know this is news so it needs to be reported, but the only reason that Focus keeps making stuff up like this is because it keeps getting reported.

Ms. Sotomayor is a judicial activist who believes that it is the role of the judiciary to "make law", not to adjudicate it. Time will tell, but from her record and public statements to date she will help rewrite America into a liberal-left stance that will be a far cry from what the founding fathers envisioned. And if that means moving into a more viruently 'anti-Christian' stance, then such will occur. This will mean the homosexual agenda will become enshrined in law, anti-family legislation will be championed and life will become cheaper and cheaper. To say that this is fear-mongering is to bury one's head in the sand to the obvious. Satan is the 'angel of light' and already we see his infernal hand in this.

Some random thoughts and responses:
First, I agree with those that state all judges come with their own biases and life experiences. It is impossible to separate ourselves from them. Conservative Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has written that hearing the life story and experiences of Justice Thomas have made her a better judge. The law is not administered in a vaccuum. In fact, I would argue that Scripture calls for justice over law, and empathy is part of that process. Besides, the very essence of Supreme Court rulings require more than just a straight reading of the law. If these cases were simple to answer, they would be resolved in the lower courts. So empathy is one tool of many in sorting out what both the law and justice demand.
On another note, pro-lifers should be pleased with this moderate selection. If they fight her they may end up with a much more pro-choice appointee. Indeed, pro-choice activists are wary of Sotomayor and concerned that she will not overturn Roe v. Wade if such a case comes to the Court. Obama is not going to appoint a pro-life justice, but his willingness to be moderate in this choice should be cause for celebration, not hysteria.

Adam S

Thanks for the info. Bigotry and fear mongering are intrinsict parts of the american diet. Why should it not also exist in the christian community?

the interesting thing - is that some of the things they fear being done to christians is exactly what christians are currently doing to others all in the name of God.

How bizarre.