Reactionary senators like Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (R-AL) take a stand against confirming Sonia Sotomayor because she believes that life experiences can inform in a positive manner the ruling of an appellate court judge. While Sessions and his Republican colleagues condemn Sotomayor for the inexcusable endorsement of empathy in a judicial decision, they may want to consider the history of the Court.
Justices interpret and apply law, especially precedent decisions, to changing circumstances. As one example, nine white male justices applied statutory law, precedent, and their "wisdom" to issues of race in America and came up with Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and preserved an apartheid system in much of the country for another sixty years. In the century of racist court decisions following the Civil War, the Supreme Court was always all-white and all-male. These justices applied their life experience to reflect on the need of society to maintain the color bar for the security and comfort of the people. Which people? Well, white people, of course.
A justice who knew what it was like to be relegated to separate status in segregated schools, trains, hospitals, etc. might have laughed bitterly at that reasoning but would also have been able to describe the real life and death consequences and effects of segregation. Empathy? Sure. A different "wisdom?" Absolutely.
Senator Sessions: "There is no place for politics in the courtroom."
What a sanctimonious fool. Only the privileged can afford to be so unconscious as to think that politics doesn't shape the legal system and judicial decisions. Knowledge of the law is essential and respect for precedent is important, but if justices were always fully bound by precedent we would be living without the most important court decisions of the last sixty years. These provided, among other things, the end of sanctioned segregation, provision of defense counsel for the indigent, the right to contraception and abortion services, protection against cops beating a confession out of a defendant, and countless more. Many of these decisions, especially Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, which declared unconstitutional de jure segregation, were condemned by conservatives and racists as overturning precedents and therefore examples of "judicial activism."
Then again, Sessions would probably have preferred not to see these more recent developments. In 1986 Sessions was nominated by President Reagan to a position on a federal appeals court but was rejected by the Senate because of his history or racism, or poor sense of humor, depending on whom you believe. Here's some details, courtesy of Crooks and Liars: (http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/.../dana-bash-equates-sessions-racist-past-sot -)
As a U.S. Attorney in Alabama, Sessions' most notable effort was prosecuting three civil rights workers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., on trumped up charges of voter fraud.
Also during his illustrious career in Alabama, Sessions called the NAACP "un-American" because it, among other groups, "forced civil rights down the throats of people." A former career Justice Department official who worked with Sessions recalled an instance when he referred to a white attorney as a "disgrace to his race" for litigating voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans. Sessions later acknowledged having made many of the controversial remarks attributed to him, but claimed to have been joking.
What's more, Thomas Figures, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Alabama and an African American, later explained that during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he "used to think they [the Klan] were OK" until he found out some of them were "pot smokers." Sessions once again acknowledged making the remark, but once again claimed to have been kidding. Figures also remembered having heard Sessions call him "boy," and once warn him to "be careful what you say to white folks."
And this is the Republicans' ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and the one leading the charge against Sotomayor, whom the Republicans dare to call a racist because of her comments about the benefits of her life experience as a woman of color in understanding the impact of the law.
I find myself saying it every day: They have no shame and there are no limits to their hypocrisy.