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June 28, 2018


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Jon Light

Quite interesting indeed. I've noticed some Martin-Quinn scores (depending on term) have her being scored as more liberal than Thomas is conservative. Yet many people look at Thomas as an irrelevant outlier or constitutional extremist. I wonder why the same arguments don't show up the other way with regards to Sotomayor's jurisprudence. Is it just because legal academics themselves tend to be liberal, so her Q-M scores are less jarring? Or are there structural differences in the ways in which she and Thomas wing the Court?


Sotomayor said it all when she testified that she self-referenced by her ethnic identity, and believed that decisions based on her emotions, in turn, based on that identity, would make her "wise."\

See, e.g. CNN, june 2009: "Judge Sonia Sotomayor has spoken for years about how her experiences as a Latina woman have influenced her public and private life. ... In her speeches, she often discussed her "Latina soul" and explained how even the traditional dishes of her Puerto Rican family shaped her views. And she often said that she hoped those experiences would help her reach better judicial conclusions than someone without such a varied background might reach. The line was almost identical every time: 'I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.'"

Better than whom, one wonders? If a person testified that he thought his white, male identity, and experiences as a white man would lead him to make better decisions as a "wise white man," hysteria would ensue.

See, e.g. Amy Fox, who has been excoriated by her faculty because she claimed that democratic capitalism functions better than other systems. The conquistadors left a culture behind them that was fairly dysfunctional, and Fox was among other things, inferring that. The ultra liberal community embraces an explicit remark like Sotomayor's, but can't even fathom any basis for Fox's stance.

What is truly frightening would be a government populated by persons who believe that their racial or ethnic identities lead them to "better" decisions (e.g., comparing exclusion of persons from entering this country to concentration camps, because it "feels" true).


"The interview is engaging, informal, and quite interesting. At one point Sotomayor walked around the room (a friendly audience filled with many former Sotomayor clerks) shaking hands and giving hugs like Oprah Winfrey or Phil Donahue, all while answering Prof. Murray’s questions."

THis is the well-worn shtick (they've done this before, of course). What is so striking is that, as you note, Sotomayor continues speaking to Murray as she passes thru the audience, allowing her worshipers to touch her hands and her robes. She pays little attention to most of them; as you say, she continues to speak with Murray, as if allowing the peasants to touch her means enough without any personal engagement or feeling (does she or do they believe touching her conveys some sort of mystical healing?).

Donahue went into the audience to ask questions. Oprah, as arrogant and conceited as she is, never went this far. TO one who doesn't worship what one considers to be the embodiment of bigotry and prejudice (in one's own favor, no less!) the fact that this person behaves as if she were a saint by walking thru an audience and allowing her adherents to touch her while being interviewed on television is a routine that is particularly disturbing to one who doesn't worship her(and because she sits on the Supreme Court and is supposed to be an OBJECTIVE JUDGE, not a self-appointed saint)!

For one, I don't want a judge who boasts about how much better her decisions are because of her ethnicity (spoiler alert: other people have grown up with challenges too, including "white men") or who behaves as if the masses are privileged just to touch her and be in her presence.

Anthony Gaughan


There was an excellent article Wednesday on the blog FiveThirtyEight that is directly on point. The author is Oliver Roeder and the title is "Which Justices Were BFFs This Supreme Court Term."

According to the composite calculations of Oliver Roeder and Harry Enten, Justice Thomas stands considerably farther to the right of the Court's center than Justice Sotomayor stands to the left of it. Thomas came in at about +.75 and Sotomayor comes in at about -.50.

But the data that Roeder and Enten used was only current through April 2017. The 2017-18 MQ scores have not been fully calculated and released yet. I will be very curious to see the final updated numbers for this term. Here's a link to the 538 article (hopefully it will get through the spam folder):

Thanks for your comment and have a good weekend.

Anthony Gaughan


Don't you think that Justice Thomas would be greeted just as warmly and fondly by an audience of his former clerks at a Federalist Society meeting? I could easily imagine him engaging an audience just like Justice Sotomayor did at the ACS meeting. They both are known for being quite down-to-earth and approachable. And that's a good thing in my book. So I thought the obvious affection and rapport between Justice Sotomayor and the ACS audience was really quite nice.

Thanks for you comment and have a good weekend.

Anthony Gaughan


Just as a post-script, and consistent with my commitment to fair and balanced coverage of the Supreme Court (just like Fox News), here are two Federalist Society interviews of Justice Thomas that might interest you.

The first is a 2013 interview of Justice Thomas by 7th Circuit Judge Diane Sykes (who, incidentally, is on President Trump's list of 25 candidates for the Kennedy seat):

The second is a 2018 interview of Justice Thomas at the Antonin Scalia Law School by George Mason Professor Jennifer Mascott (a former Thomas clerk):

Enjoy! And have a good weekend.



I took a quick look thru the videos.

In the first, Thomas was wearing a tuxedo, sitting politely and professionally throughout the interview. It is nearly one hour. Your point isn’t obvious going thru it quickly. He talks about the fact that he got zero job offers after attending Yale Law School, and finally landed a job with Danforth. He said he learned from Danworth not to judge people by labels.

The second 2018 interview of Justice Thomas found him again attired in a suit and sitting throughout the interview professionally (i.e., not acting like a religious evangelist touching people or a faux rock star). He discusses various topics, as best I could discern. He said he considers diversity important, but he doesn’t like “faux diversity” – judging other by skin color, ethnicity, etc. He said he wants clerks from a variety of BACKGROUNDS, and not just from the “Ivy League.”

How refreshing, when compared with the hide-bound, narrow-minded, elitist, status-seeking “liberals” who dominate in legal academia (e.g, those who over-pronounce words with a root in spanish to signal “virtue.”) Thomas said he likes to recruit clerks from modest backgrounds, who had to worry about affording the needs of life. This is a very different stance from a person who speaks and thinks constantly about her ethnicity, and repeatedly suggests that ethnicity proves something. Thomas seemed to recognize that economic challenges can affect people without regard to ethnicity, religion, race, etc., and that that sort of diversity is much more important than the superficial and invidious discrimination demonstrated, e.g., in legal academia. Diversity there is measured by ethnicity, gender and skin color, not by the sort of true diversity of opportunity about which Thomas spoke.

It is so obtuse to assert that someone who says “I am a Latina, and therefore …” hasn’t said something very offensive to so many of us. It might please bigots, who think somehow that “Latin” culture is superior in some way, but to most of us, I think, these words are shocking.

Say you came from poverty and learned the lessons that struggling and overcoming those challenges entailed. Fine. Great! Praiseworthy. Say you can decide cases better because you are a “wise White man” or anything like that, and all of us should cringe.

What is your point, Anthony? Did Thomas say at some point that he decides cases better than others because he is a “wise Black man”? Did he walk through masses of dewy eyed worshippers, allowing them to touch him, as if he were a saint or messiah? What is the point of these clips?


BTW, the expected answer is: "DO you deny that there is discrimination in opportunity based on race, ethnicity, religion, etc.?" Of course not. And, overcoming these challenges (if in fact, a person had to overcome these challenges, and taking into account the extent to which a person had to overcome these challenges) can inform a person's understanding of the struggles of others. I don't deny this.

What I do dispute is that "wisdom" can be associated with an ethnicity. All who have struggled, I believe, share the core wish to overcome divisive characterizations (unless they are vindictive and preoccupied with their own status).

Had the statement been: "I have been harmed by discrimination, and therefore, I might understand the plight of others harmed by discrimination better that someone who has not suffered that way" I would have no issue with it.

It is the self-referential ethic identification that rubs so many people the wrong way, because people who are "wise" understand that people in general can be challenged in so many ways, and that empathy isn't a product of being a "Latina."

As a wise PERSON, a JUDGE in particular should understand this distinction.

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