Sessions: “Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another”

13 07 2009

Senator Jeff Sessions’ statement at today’s hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court:

Justice Sotomayor has said she accepts that her opinions, sympathies and prejudices will affect her rulings. Could it be that her time as a leader in the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a fine organization, provides a clue to her decision against the firefighters?

While the nominee was chair of that fund’s litigation committee, the organization aggressively pursued racial quotas in city hiring and in numerous cases fought to overturn the results of promotion exams. It seems to me that in Ricci, Judge Sotomayor’s empathy for one group of firefighters turned out to be prejudice against another.

That is, of course, the logical flaw in the empathy standard. Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.

This is an odd argument to make considering how SCOTUSblog found that in race discrimination cases Judge Sotomayor’s record is strikingly similar to those of her other colleagues on the Second Circuit, which include members of both parties and is overwhelmingly white.

Other than Ricci, Judge Sotomayor has decided 96 race-related cases while on the court of appeals.

Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions. Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous. (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.) Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent’s point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case. So Judge Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of roughly 8 to 1.

Secondly, it seems rather awkward for Senator Jeff Sessions to accuse a person of color of racism considering his own checkered past.

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