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  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:  ( -)

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.

Originally posted to jhannon on Thu Jul 16, 2009 at 09:20 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    csquared, cee4, dot farmer, trs, southriver, Dbug

    If looks could kill it would have been us instead of him.

    by jhannon on Thu Jul 16, 2009 at 09:20:16 PM PDT

  •  I wouldn't call it "silliness", because that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nisi Prius

    trivializes their actions.  They are exhibiting racial and gender bias.

    Sessions and Graham are the worst--Sessions essentially demands a statement that everyone is being fair and courteous just before slamming her and giving the lie to the previous statement.  Graham talks to her as if she were the "little woman" who does not know the law.

  •  This theater is almost over. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    csquared, mollyk

    This whole spectacle is pro forma for the electorate. After she is confirmed, we can move on to the next pre-election campaigning event.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Thu Jul 16, 2009 at 09:41:31 PM PDT

  •  I think this whole "wise Latina" business (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    h bridges, southriver

    has been a distraction from actually examining her record, and I dont mean by the right wing, I mean by the left.

    Theres alot of unanswered questions about her. Like how she views the separation of church and state - nobody asked. Same for free speech. Or for unenumerated rights..... She seems to be very deferential to police powers, something that would have the left up in arms about had it been a republican nominee, but seem to not care at all when its a democratic nominee.

    Im hopeful about her, but I wont be shocked if she turns out to be a disappointment on some civil liberties issues. And I dont think it was necessary to be disappointed or even take the chance of being disappointed. This is Obamas first pick; he has 60 senators on his side; he's replacing a liberal judge.... He could have picked just about anyone he wanted, but imo he went with someone that could tun out to be his David Souter in reverse (on some issues). I hope Im wrong.

    •  I hope you're wrong, too, but it wasn't (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      just the "distractions" that precluded any serious examination of Judge Sotomayor by leftist Democrats.  That was never going to happen, distractions or not.  Things pertaining to Supreme Court nominations and confirmations are too politicized to allow objective inquiry, which might be interpreted as doubting the wisdom of the President's pick.  Even the reservations expressed by Freedom of Choice organizations did not get picked up by any Democratic Senators.  And this despite the absence of rulings by Judge Sotomayor on abortion issues, save for one rather troubling decision upholding the "Mexico City doctrine," prohibiting foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing abortions, or even "supporting" abortions by providing information about the procedure or its availability elsewhere.

      I suppose that even if an attempt had been made, nominees have for some time now been allowed to fall back on such tactics as refusing to answer any questions involving real, live controversies, or any questions involving "hypothetical situations," or just about anything that might provide some real insight.  Having watched a good deal of the recent proceedings, I was disgusted with the Republican tactics, but, more importantly, unsatisfied by the substance (i.e., the lack thereof) of the hearings.

      •  I would agree with that. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Its Obama's fault if Sotomayor turns out to be a disappointment. Once he chose her, there was nothing the democrat senators could do about it. Although remember the conservatives (activists) did stop Harriet Miers. I guess along with being disappointed in Obama (for chosing someone thats a bit of a crap shoot) Im disappointed with sites like this where everybody automatically comes to the defense of the democratic nominiee and doesnt seem to care much at all what kind of judge she might be. Theres no, or very little, objectivity.

        Im keeping my fingers crossed. If she turns out bad or even average though I think Obama has lost my vote in 2012. It was the most important issue to me. I guess he has another opportunity to make up for it somewhat should she disappoint, and thats when Stevens retires. If he pulls the same thing again though Im really going to be pissed.

        •  The most important issue, I think you'll agree, (0+ / 0-)

          is who will he appoint to replace Justice Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, Alito, or Roberts -- named in order of their ages (73, 73, 61, 58, 54), not to be vulturish or ghoulish about it.  That will be the game-changing appointment, and will there ever be a fight on that one.

          As W said, bring it on!

          Harriet Miers -- yeah, I remember.  Sure wish we had her, instead of Scalito.  

  •  emphathy should be punished (0+ / 0-)

    The crown will plainly show
    The prisoner who now stands before you
    Was caught red-handed showing feelings
    Showing feelings of an almost human nature;
    This will not do.

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