May 26th, 2009
11:58 AM ET
5 years ago

Sotomayor: Gender, ethnicity should influence judges

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WASHINGTON (CNN) - Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said in a 2001 speech that a judge's gender and ethnicity does, and should, influence his or her decision-making on the bench.

Sotomayor made the comments on October 26, 2001, at a University of California-Berkeley symposium marking the 40th anniversary of the first Latino named to the federal district court.

"I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society," she said at the event, sponsored by the law school. "I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that - it's an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others."

"Our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice [Sandra Day] O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement," she added. "First, as Professor [Martha] Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

A university media affairs representative confirmed the comments to CNN.

President Obama announced Tuesday his intention to nominate Sotomayor to the high court. She would become the first Hispanic and third female justice in Supreme Court history.


Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Kevin in Ohio

    This is very very scary. I thought we were past racism and sexism. But I guess the liberals, including Judge Sotomayor, are still sticking to their racist/sexist guns.....

    May 26, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. Paul

    Congratulations Mrs. Sotomayor

    Great choice Mr. President

    God bless!!!

    May 26, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. WRONG WRONG WRONG

    Justice is supposed to be blind when it comes to ethnicity and gender. What Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor said in her 2001 speech is an affront to equal protetion under the law, and it is contrary to our Constitution. Every male non hispanic should be concerned as this nominee has announced that she will bend toward gender and ethnic background. This would be a travesty to the highest court in this country. It is not the job of the Supreme Court to make laws; it is their job to enforce those laws already enacted. This is yet another step toward socializm in this country.

    Don;t hold your breath about illegal immigrant reform coming anytime soon, And don't look for this jurist to come down against any illegal to enter this country.

    What's next? Press #1 for an english speaking judge.

    May 26, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. Shirley In California Now On The Fence Re Obama

    I think Sotomayor will make a good justice. Having said that, I am still upset with Obama for the way he passed over qualified black women. He didn't even bother to vett any. What's next Obama? Will you send Michelle out to underprivileged schools with predominately black students to keep face in the black communities? As of today, I am giving Obama 3.5 years to redeem himself with me or I will not vote for him again. The entire process was insulting to me and I won't forget it.

    May 26, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    @ Kevin in Ohio

    And Harriet Myers wasn't? Get a clue!

    May 26, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. Robert Markey

    Another Catholic on the SC...how many constitute a "papal majority"...

    May 26, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. Bob the Observer

    So, does the Constitution and what it actually says come in third? Or is it even lower?

    May 26, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Steph

    Of course who we are affects our views and the way we approach our work. Anyone who says otherwise is lying!

    May 26, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. James

    Way to misconstrue her point. She's obviously reflecting on experiences and their effect on judgement. In no way does she endorse evaluating cases solely on personal point-of-view.

    May 26, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. panem et circenses

    Too bad Obama could not stop talking after he put forth the argument for how qualified she was. She is qualified. Period.

    What has happened by stressing her color and gender will now turn anyone who disagrees with her into a racist or sexist instead of someone who simply disagrees with her stance.

    What happened to him being a unifier instead of a divider?

    May 26, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. I laugh at Limbaugh daily

    There goes the "one issue" right wingers.Bye,you picked the wrong party to over turn Roe vs Wade.All that will be left are Limbaughs America haters.hahahahahah

    May 26, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. Bill

    Too bad she isn't a judge in the court concerning the laws of physics!

    Just think, certain people would be capable of time-travel, others could defy gravity, some could be fire-proof (therefore not prone to sunburn), it would be like X-men or the Fantastic Four!

    What a beautiful world it would be indeed!

    Murder is murder, stealing is stealing, rape is rape. Any injustice by one person towards another should be treated equally and not scaled in severity based on the the race or gender of the principals.

    If a mobster kills you are you more or less dead than if killed by a militia member?

    May 26, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  13. Tulsa

    Kevin in Ohio,
    Your stupidity is showing. Any person is influenced by their experience. The very reason we need diversity on the high court is for that reason.
    Why are you Republicans so SCARED all the time? Bed wetter.

    May 26, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Susan in Seattle

    Racism and sexism are not unique to liberals Kevin in Ohio. You show your own biased "-ism" when you make such a comment.

    Her comment "...BETTER conclusion..." is disturbing as well as her stance on New Haven imho.

    May 26, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  15. proud army navy mom

    o Justice Souter's retirement could move the Court to the left and provide a critical fifth vote for:

    o Further eroding the rights of the unborn and property owners;

    o Imposing a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage;

    o Stripping "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance and completely secularizing the public square;

    o Abolishing the death penalty;

    o Judicial micromanagement of the government's war powers.

    May 26, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  16. Josh- Rochester, MN

    Obama is a racist. He picked her over others because of her race. He is also a sexist. He picked her only because she is a woman.

    Ok, ok... He is likely neither of these, I give you that. I will tell you what he is though: A Liberal populist, afraid of doing anything that might t-off his base. Selecting a Latino female will cover two of his bases. Now if only she was a lesbian.

    May 26, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  17. steve

    Could somebody ask Sen Jeff Sessions ( R) what he meant this morning on fix news(GOP mouth piece) when he said, President Obama by making this supreme court pick has altered the standard by departing from the "American Heritage".

    May 26, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  18. Lori

    EVERYONE, including judges, views the world through their own eyes- whether it be through gender, race, etc. I am so HAPPY that we have a woman and a Hispanic to counter all the old, conservative men in the Supreme Court. To Republicans, being a conservative means that you are 'impartial' but to be a liberal means that you cannot be which is ridiculous. I love that Ms. Sotomayor will bring a 'human touch' to the Courts.

    Excellent job Mr. President. If the Republicans put up an objection to this nominee, this Democrat is ready to fight for you.

    May 26, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. proud army navy mom

    here are the repug's talking points that were mistakenly leaked to the media... If you hear them, please recognize that the media is taking their orders straight from the GOP: o Justice Souter's retirement could move the Court to the left and provide a critical fifth vote for:

    o Further eroding the rights of the unborn and property owners;

    o Imposing a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage;

    o Stripping "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance and completely secularizing the public square;

    o Abolishing the death penalty;

    o Judicial micromanagement of the government's war powers.

    May 26, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  20. Pee Wee

    Weren't these also cornerstones of Hitler's philosophy?

    At least the ethnicity part?

    May 26, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  21. JT

    Kevin in Ohio – Take a look at the current Supreme Court. It is almost as caucasion as you can get. Sotomayor a racist pick???? Get real.

    May 26, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  22. Hammer

    And I thought that Obama's choices for the openings in the past were bad?

    May 26, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  23. Brian in AZ

    In short, she represents the absolute politicizing of the high court. She's not even carrying the pretense of objectivity. Now it's "everyone against everyone"–older latinas versus curmudgeonly white fogeys. It'd be the screenplay for a comedy if the Consitution and the liberty of all Armericans weren't hanging in the balance.

    May 26, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Ray

    What have her decisions been on open borders, illegal immigration, immigration law? BO, ever the friend of big business ,wants to flood the country with illegals to serve his class as nannies and landscapers and to provide cheap labor for his corporate funders. The result will be and has been devastating for the citizen working class.

    May 26, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. Steph

    I don't understand how "right to life" people can be pro-death penalty and pro-war (where innocent people including pregnant women and their unborn children are killed in the cross-fire). Someone (possibly proud army navy mom) please explain this to me!

    May 26, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
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