Friday, June 5, 2009

Why we need an hispanic Supreme Court justice

Alarming as this post may be to my die-hard fellow conservatives, I strongly advocate appointing an Hispanic judge to the Supreme Court. Now, whether or not I support Judge Sonia Sotomayor remains to be seen. For this post I would like to look at the broader issue of judicial ethnic diversity.

Conservatives generally veer strongly away from the concept of ethnic quotas, and for good reason. Reverse discrimination is still discrimination. To be denied a promotion, raise, or an opportunity simply because the color of one's skin or the accent of one's speech cannot be tolerated.

In the educational arena this battle has been fought numerous times. The 1978 Supreme Court’s decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke concluded that “the goal of achieving a diverse student body is sufficiently compelling to justify consideration of race in admissions decisions . . .” More recently, the Bush Administration legally challenged the University of Michigan's admissions policy that not only took race into consideration, but also weigh it more than other factors. In a split decision ruling, the Supreme Court validated UofM's admissions policy, though it did strike down certain elements.

Essentially it works like this: schools are allowed to take race into consideration, as long as race is only one of several factors. I see this as a fair-minded and common-sense approach to a difficult issue. All other things being relatively equal, race can be "a" determining factor in graduate school admissions, but never "the" determining factor.

The Supreme Court is the highest legal body in the United States. Though not a 'representative body' such a Congress, the individuals serving on the Court have been commissioned to uphold, cherish, and protect the legal interests of the entire nation. A diverse nation calls for a diverse Court. Our nation has already broke ground with the appointment of women and African-Americans. While race (or gender) should never be the sole factor in such appointments, to refuse to allow it to be a significant factor is to ignore the very diversity which forms the American heartbeat.

For example, the Hispanic growth rate is almost three times more than the overall population growth rate. Most studies suggest that there are over 44 million individuals of Hispanic origin living in America. Placing an Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court isn't designed to protect the interests of Hispanic-Americans. Rather, it is meant to protect the interests of America itself, and to ensure that our leaders remain our equals. Though caution must be taken and boundaries must be set, a commitment to diversity protects our nation from the quiet tyranny of neglect.



  1. I'm really of two minds about this. I suppose I come down leaning more heavily toward the concept that Americans should be able to look at the court and see something other than "nine old white guys". There really is something to the idea that growing up with a "different experience" will lend the court a variety of thought that translates into more points of view being considered.

    On the other hand, the court should be above such considerations. The Constitution is rightfully our most difficult document to amend and those who are interpreting it should be the least beholden to anything but precedent when making their deliberations.

    The reason I lean toward the first concept is that we've still got a ways to go before we reach that Utopia where race and origin are inconsequential. The framers weren't perfect (slavery was codified), although they did get it right when they created a Constitution that could be changed over time to account for their imperfections.

    P.S. The thing that makes me angriest about those who are challenging Sotomayor is that they're doing it with tiny sound bites. They bemoan a decision as if it was a no-brainer. Regardless of her decisions (and whether or not one agrees with them), the cases made their way to higher courts because they weren't no-brainers. The cases were complicated and the decisions involved serious deliberation. Analyzing her decisions warrants the same serious deliberation.

  2. As a "die-hard" I am far more interested in seeing someone on the Supreme Court who will interpret the Constitution rather than making laws from the bench. I really don't care if the court is all Hispanic or all white or all black as long as they carry out their Constituonal role.