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

Sotomayor: Gender, ethnicity should influence judges


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. Eric

    GOP are always on the wrong side of reality. About the importance of feelings on judgement, let's remember that researches from Damasio (Descartes mistake) show that a human without feelings can't make any decision. Feelings are always present in decision-making. So it's better to have someone who understands it that one of those lunatics who think feelings don't take part in their decisions.

    May 26, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  2. Shasta

    Racism and sexism coming from a minority is still wrong.

    May 26, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. confused

    donttreadonme – aren't we doing the same thing in Iraq killing hundreds of thousands of people? Wasn't Saddam at war with those he performed those horrible deeds with while being backed by our government?

    Next idiotic statement from the nuts.

    May 26, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. Sharon Kitchen

    Congrats......soon to be Judge Sotomayor.

    May 26, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  5. Tarheel

    The Democrats are correct in blaming white people, especially men, for what this country is. All they have done is turn 13 little colonies into the greatest nation on Earth, where people are willing to risk their lives in order to come here. We need to put more illegals and lesser qualified minorities in positions of power so we can ruin this country like other countries who have done the same thing.

    May 26, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. confused

    Isn't the constitution cloaked in racism & sexism and we've altered some of it due to it being drafted by racist and sexist men?

    Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    May 26, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  7. aaron

    So much for Martin Luther Kings colorblind society.

    May 26, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  8. Dave, the truth teller

    Miguel Estrada! The left has no shame.

    May 26, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  9. Mac

    This statement is troubling "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." Does that imply that the judge's personal experience should be considered with as much weight as actual evidence in the case when reaching a decision? How do Obama disciples rationalize that position?

    May 26, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. Steph

    You didn't give me an answer... So, if a war is fought for the right reasons but an innocent unborn child is killed in the crossfire, that's OK with you? Why is that child's life worth less than a teenager's child in the USA? Oh, and you didn't mention the death penalty at all. How is it OK to kill someone after they are born? There is a small minority of people who practice what they preach and value all life. I am just trying to understand the pro-life, pro-death penalty, pro-war stance. Why so angry?

    May 26, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Cleaning up after W

    I think a lot of you are taking her statement out of context (as can be expected of Repug trolls). Do you honestly think that she was saying she's smarter than all white males? I don't, and I am one. She was saying that there are many circumstances where her ethnic background make it easier to see the circumstances of the case. God, you people have so much fear in you, it's pathetic.

    May 26, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    CNN...please provide the name of the symposium and the intended topic of discussion and theme thereof. You take every single thing she is quoted as saying right out of context by not providing the simplest of information.

    May 26, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. A Towner

    RE: 12:46 et post from "Fair is Fair": "The purpose of the SCOTUS, indeed a key to the checks and balances system, is to adjudicate cases on the basis of Constitutional law. Setting policy has no right being on the SCOTUS."

    100% CORRECT.... However SCOTUS has chaged course time and time again as "policy" has seeped into its perceived mission... Ideally, policy has no place in SCOTUS.... History shows otherwise....

    May 26, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. ray ray

    @ BigMisterC says,

    "Shouldn't jurists make rulings based on their life experiences? "


    Um... NO... jurists should make rulings based on THE LAW! You liberals literally are worse than Islamic terrorists.

    Terrorists want to kill us all. You liberals want to pervert the rule of law and have everyone live in your fairy-tale world of emotional justice and Robinhood economics.

    May 26, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. Mississippi Mike

    This is exactly why the Republicans need to fight her appointment.

    May 26, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    @Kevin – "thought we were past racism "

    Dude, did you even see any of the last election for president? It was ALL about race, and pretty much all that mattered, to both sides.

    To one side it worked, to the other, it didn't.

    May 26, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. Travis in Colorado

    Wow, I didn't know that Obama could bend like that. Obama is sure covering his bases isn't he? Picking a racist, puerto rican woman for the supreme court. I didn't know Obama could sink any lower. There goes another nail in the coffin for America and for Americans. Open up the border for more and more illegals to this country. Press 1 for english, press 2 for all the illegal, welfare collecting racist hispanics that want to turn America into part of Mexico. Thank you and buenos tardes!

    May 26, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  18. jesse

    We've already had a hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

    Benjamin Cardozo, nominated by Herbert Hoover way back in 1932 had Portuguese heritage.

    May 26, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  19. ghost

    Well, a person's history and experience should and will affect their decision making. Case in point, Claence Thomas's views of AA. The fact that his is admittedly bitter at black folk (now ain't that something) means that his view's against may be marred in self hatred. Now I'm no psychologist, but it makes sense.

    The fact that the Constitution is left to the intepretation by these judges screams that there should be a rather diverse group of people residing on the SC.

    With all this said, I do wonder if this is a good pick or not.

    May 26, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  20. Florence

    I just wish the President had enough courage to appoint a non-religious person to our high court. It's time for us, the non-believers to also have a voice. I'm sick and tired of Santa Claus.

    May 26, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. Edward

    It's bad that everyone other than Caucasian people can take race into consideration when making decisions. If you're going to argue against racism then it should apply to all people not just Caucasians. People who do and practice otherwise are closet racists who say one thing then do another and expect the same not to be done to them.

    May 26, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. D.Matt

    Sotomayor said, "a judge's gender and ethnicity does, and should, influence his or her decision-making on the bench."
    That can't be true! Look at Clarence Thomas!

    May 26, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  23. Really!?

    Gender and ethnicity have no place in Supreme Court deliberations. Its the constitution stupid!

    May 26, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. Justin

    "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." The only comment I have is we have nine most experienced, wisest people sitting in the USC, and I cannot recall the last time there is a 9-0 decision on any issue; often O'Connor and Ginsburg were on the opposite sides.

    May 26, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. vl

    Scary person. This is the opposite of what America should be. Obama and Sotomayor are two peas in a pod. Racists who want governement control over the people.

    May 26, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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