So much has been made of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court that it’s hard to know what people expect from the upcoming hearing. For her part, I expect to see an infinitely qualified and highly prepared nominee anxious to address the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite her years of practice and judicial experience, Sotomayor’s Republican detractors on the committee will, I suspect, try to show that she is unfit to sit on the court. A recent study showing that 98 percent of the time she agrees with the majority on constitutional questions will deflate claims that Judge Sotomayor’s judicial positions are outside mainstream legal reasoning. Republican senators will be hard pressed to argue that a Justice Sotomayor would put the law on an unprecedented course given support from the Fraternal Order of Police, Louis Freeh and Ken Starr, not to mention the American Bar Association’s highest rating.
In a wider context, Republican Senators ought to be reminded that President Reagan started the Supreme Court on the course of better gender representation in 1981 with his first nominee, Sandra Day O’Connor. We are now in our fourth year with only one woman on the country’s highest court and Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation which would double the number of women on the court isn’t parity, but it’s a start.
For me the critical question is not whether the Supreme Court should have seats set aside for women; the one so often asked. Nearly 30 years after Justice O’Connor’s appointment, the question we confront as a country is whether we can let go of the presumption that these lofty positions belong to men. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made…It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” Justice O’Connor agrees with Justice Ginsburg that another woman is needed on the court. And Justice O’Connor has told none other than David Letterman that she is “very happy we’re getting another woman on the court.” Justice Ginsburg, who knows Judge Sotomayor, went further, saying that Judge Sotomayor “will bring to the Supreme Court …a wealth of experience in law and life.” (more)