Like most ordinary citizens, I am not a follower of judicial careers, and can't with any authority weigh in on the reputation or qualifications of any sitting judicial appointees, at any level of the Federal Bench.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
How We Pick Judges
So my post here will have nothing whatever to say about the qualifications of Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nomination for the soon-to-be-vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Like most Americans--certainly the vast majority--I know absolutely nothing about her record, the decisions she's been involved in, or the "trend" of her biases.
What I find most troubling about these appointments, is the way in which nearly everyone in the media accepts the politically correct prejudice that such appointments should "reflect" the racial, ethnic, sexual and political "complexion" of present-day America. Which is another way of saying that the quota (affirmative action) system must be applied to the selection of judges, just as it is utilized in other Federal and State selection criteria.
The Supreme Court is a crucial body. It decides cases at the highest level, often having the broadest influence and effects upon our society. Ideally, we want people in it who have a comprehensive knowledge of the law, historically and practically, and who have a deep sympathy for all sectors of the electorate, not just the downtrodden, but everyone.
The criteria for choosing a Supreme Court justice must include this knowledge, as well as a requisite amount of practical experience in hearing a variety of cases. Those without this knowledge, or without this experience, come unqualified and unprepared.
But the nomination criteria has evolved over the last half century, into a contest between ideological extremism on the one hand, and politically correct affirmative action on the other.
Obama's "choice" for a nominee was expected to reflect the liberal habit of picking someone who would "represent" the full panoply of reparation, parity, "points", etc. In other words, employing criteria based on racial, sexual, ethnic and other "non-qualifying" measures to determine suitability.
Is it possible to nominate individuals who possess both the combination of knowledge and experience needed to qualify them for Supreme Court duty, while also honoring (if that were really necessary) the other criteria now being used?
Like all true nominations and appointments based on merit and potential, the selection process should be "blind" (like justice) to irrelevant factors and conditions. We shouldn't be willing to "compromise" our primary criteria, to suit some special preference or prejudice. Whites shouldn't prefer Whites, and Blacks shouldn't prefer Blacks, etc.
This is true whether or not you think that all politics is partisan and inherently biased. The ideal condition of selection and performance should be based on real qualifications, not on race, color, creed, sex, ethnicity or national origin.
What troubles me is the bland acceptance on the part of the media of the a priori bias of the selection. Sotomayor is a woman, she is "Latino" (Puerto Rican descent), was "deprived" (poor and raised by a single parent), and (as some have speculated) possibly even Lesbian. In other words, the primary criteria for her selection appears to have been the number of non-essential, non-qualifying criteria which she embodied.
Politicians know that the general public is not only totally ignorant when it comes to the record and character of these nominees, it cynically believes that this doesn't even matter. What they seek is a partisan representative, who also appears to pander to all the politically correct categories of "eligibility." Everyone assumes that these nominees are vetted on the basis of their biases, and that in order to merit consideration, they should come from among one or more of the "preferred" sub-groups of preference.
The media likes to make the claim that appointing minorities has a wonderfully positive effect on poor, ethnic, or otherwise marginalized citizens, especially children. Isn't it just as true, perhaps even more so, that the message we send to all citizens with these kinds of nominations and appointments, is that true qualifications don't really matter, that people are chosen because of those very criteria which our Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence deemed to be unfair, unequal, and repugnant?
It has become so very difficult, in our present environment, to speak openly about these issues, without seeming to be either arrogantly bigoted, or viciously partisan. But why must this be so? If Obama is the paragon of virtue and intellectual honesty, why must he choose according to criteria which fly straight in the face of our primary political principles?
Why must we choose an African American, such as Justice Thomas, whose qualifications appear to have been inferior, to say the least, simply because he was, very atypically and astonishingly, a Black Man with an extreme Conservative bent? It is, in effect, a way actually of arguing on behalf of an Uncle Tom, a compliant Servant who will do the Master's bidding.
If the Sotomayor nomination is supposed to be "payback" for Latino votes and support in "key" election States, let's hope people see through this transparent attempt to seduce minority voters into thinking that anyone in Washington really cares what they think, or want, or, indeed, what our nation really needs or deserves, from its elected representatives.
The Sotomayor nomination is an embarrassment. Not because she may, or may not, be qualified, but because her qualifications (whatever they are) are secondary.