August 12, 2009

The State Bar of California … ugh

By Joshua P. Thompson Senior Attorney

Author: Joshua Thompson

The President of the one-and-only State Bar of California, the agency that tells me I can practice law in California, recently wrote this "article."  The piece revolves around the nomination of Judge Sotomayor.  The article starts fine, saying, "[i]ntelligence, practicality, knowledge of the law
and skill at learning new and emerging areas of law, ability to evaluate and
weigh the facts fairly" are necessary to evaluating judges.   Who can't agree with that?  But then the article takes a turn by attempting to defend Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment

The author notes how Plessy v. Ferguson, a decision holding "separate but equal" facilities for white and black people constitutional, was decided by "wise white men," and doubts whether with a person of color on the bench, the Court would have ruled the same way.  The author also doubts whether Korematsu v. United States, a case finding internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II constitutional, would have been decided the same way with a Japanese-American sitting on the bench.

From these select cases the author comes to the conclusion that, "Adding the perspective of a 'wise Latina woman' justice or of
any person with such diverse life experiences to the Supreme Court cannot help
but enrich their discussions and, as a result, make their decisions more
reflective of the entirety of the American experience."  

However, "diverse life experiences" does not make a good Supreme Court justice.  "It’s not the heart that compels conclusions in cases, it’s the law. … [Judges] apply law to facts. [Judges] don’t apply feelings to facts."  Those statements were made by Judge Sotomayor.  She too recognized that her "wise Latina" comment was silly.  "It left an impression that life experience commanded a result in a case but that’s clearly not what I do as a judge."

Unfortunately, the President of the California State Bar does not agree.  Per the President of the State Bar, the Supreme Court should, in part, be determined by skin color, ethnicity, sex, marriage, hair color, pet ownership, and everything else that makes up one's "life experiences."  On the bright side, thanks to PLF, my bar dues don't have to go to the Bar's political causes.  Rest assured, I will take special pride in checking the box to make sure my money doesn't go this year.

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