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Sotomayor Admires ‘Hispanic’ Justice

From the transcript of day two of Ms. Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, via the New York Times:

Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings, Day 2

July 14, 2009

SEN. KOHL: Thank you. Judge, which current one or two Supreme Court justices do you most identify with, and which ones might we expect you to be agreeing with most of the time in the event that you are confirmed?

JUDGE SOTOMAYOR: Senator, to suggest that I — that I admire one of the sitting Supreme Court justices would suggest that I think of myself as a clone of one of the justices. I don’t. Each one of them brings integrity, their sense of respect for the law, and their sense of their best efforts and hard work to come to the decisions they think the law requires.

Going further than that would put me in the position of suggesting that, by picking one justice, I was disagreeing or criticizing another. And I don’t wish to do that. I wish to describe just myself. I’m a judge who believes that the facts drive the law and the conclusion that the law will apply to that case. And when I say "drives the law," I mean determines how the law will apply in that individual case.

If you would ask me instead, if you permit me, to tell you a justice from the past that I admire for applying that approach to the law, it would be Justice Cardozo. Now, Justice Cardozo didn’t spend a whole lot of time on the Supreme Court; he had an untimely passing. But he had been a judge on the New York Court of Appeals for a very long time, and during his short tenure on the bench one of the factors that he was so well known for was his great respect for precedent and his great respect for — respect and deference to the legislative branch and to the other branches of government and their powers under the Constitution.

In those regards, I do admire those parts of Justice Cardozo which he was most famous for, and think that that is how I approach the law: as a case-by-case application of law to facts.

SEN. KOHL: Thank you. Appreciate that.

Of course it is simply a coincidence that in the whole universe of current or former Supreme Court Justices Ms Sotomayor would just happen to choose the only Hispanic Justice to have ever served on the court.

(Besides being of Portuguese ancestry, Mr. Cardozo was also a non-practicing Jew. He was also said to be a homosexual.)

Yes, there is some arcane controversy as to whether having a Portuguese surname or Portuguese ancestors makes one Hispanic.

(Cardozo’s biographer has addressed this in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.)

But ‘settled’ US law says that Mr. Cardozo was an Hispanic American.

Specifically, Title 49, Section 26.5 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines Hispanic Americans as:

subpart a – GENERAL

26.5 – What do the terms used in this part mean?

… Socially and economically disadvantaged individual means any individual who is a citizen (or lawfully admitted permanent resident) of the United States and who is (1) Any individual who a recipient finds to be a socially and economically disadvantaged individual on a case-by-case basis.

  (2) Any individual in the following groups, members of which are rebuttably presumed to be socially and economically disadvantaged: (i) Black Americans, which includes persons having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa; (ii) Hispanic Americans, which includes persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or other Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race;

And this is the definition that’s used in the contracting race preference programs administered by the Department of Transportation.

So by ‘settled law’ Mr. Cardozo was a Hispanic Justice.

And he just happens to be one the justice in the long history of the Supreme Court that the unbiased Hispanic Sonia Sotomayor admires most.

But she isn’t prejudiced.

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, July 15th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

20 Responses to “Sotomayor Admires ‘Hispanic’ Justice”

  1. wardmama4 says:

    That was going to be my question – Isn’t Justice Cardozo – just as Hispanic as you (ok Latino, _____-American, however you want to call it) – as I’m sure that a lot of Portuguese see themselves that way. ( I know that the sperm donor (so called because he wants nothing to do with the child) for my first grandson considers himself not white).

    But of course two things make Justice Cardozo’s ancestry moot – his parents weren’t immigrants (his linage had been in America a while) and of course, he was appointed by a Republican.

    So no matter what – he can’t be Hispanic, Latino______-American or even counted as a First, no matter what.

    God Help America if this anti-gun (you know damn well, if a Republican used the ‘my best friend has a gun’ bs they’d be laughed out of the hearing room), racist (you know damn well if a Republican was a member of La Raza, we’d hear all the most horrible things about La Raza non-stop) and anti-Constitutional (look at Maloney v Rice – which considering how DC v Heller turned out, she should not be seated on the Supreme Court) Judge out there – which is exactly why The One ™ nominated her.

    I just wish the Gramnesty had kept his pie hole shut and that someone in the Senate had the guts to stand up and say No.

    God Help America – she is being torn apart brick by brick and those who have been entrusted to protect her – are looking the other way or using jack hammers as we write.

  2. And ultimately, even in light of this, which might well be a “taunt” to draw out those “racist Republicans,” she will continue to say what is necessary to appease the conscience of those who if “truth be known” would likely suggest the President find another selection.

    She is not a stupid person to be sure. But being smart hardly erases the fact her record has 9 of 10 turnovers by the court she would assume a voice in. It also, as has been pointed out before, does not erase those pesky videos of her bragging of a “legislative record” from the bench.

  3. bronzeprofessor says:

    Her pick of Benjamin Cardozo is probably just a simplistic way of going with someone who’s famous in the NY City area. There’s a Benjamin Cardozo law school in New York City, and for kids growing up in that area, he’s one of the few Supreme Court justices from history you’d know off the top of your head. A great person to name, without having to think too hard about it, and she gets to name a Jew with a last name ending in “O.” That way she sounds ethnically hip and she doesn’t have to go out on a limb too much, just draw from some familiar Benjie Cardozo anecdotes she would have picked up with her tri-state area buddies.

    • Steve says:

      The media has been full of the discussion of whether Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic justice, since Cardozo was of Portuguese descent.

      There is no way on earth that she would not be aware of it.

      I think she is more conditioned than Pavlov’s dog.

      No matter what she will see things through a Hispanic perspective.

    • bronzeprofessor says:

      Technically speaking, she would be the first Hispanic justice but not the first person of Latino or Ibero-American descent. “Hispanic” refers to descendancy from Spanish-speakers, while “Lusophone” refers to descendancy from Portuguese-speakers.

      “Latino” refers to descendancy from speakers of Latin cognate languages, or Romance languages, so it would encompass Quebecois, Haitians, Italian American, Brazilians, Portuguese people, and even Catalan speakears who happened to live in the United States. I believe the Basque community in Idaho would even fall tachnically under Latino. Even more complexly, Filipinos would technically have to count as Latino (as someone who’s half Filipino and half Puerto Rican, I always felt perplexed by the fact that all my ancestors were colonized by Spain but only half of them are considered Latinos in popular understanding.)

      So it seems to me that Cardozo could not be Hispanic, but Alito, Scalia, and Cardozo would all be Latino.

      This is why I think the use of these racial categories to describe Latinos is outdated and silly by this point. Anyway so many Latinos are white, that in a few decades the category won’t have racial implications at all anymore. “Latin American” ancestry will make for a simpler label, and more direct, since it includes Brazilian with no caveats. The trick there is that Puerto Ricans like my mother’s relatives are US citizens so it isn’t clear whether they are Latin American. Also Mexico is part of North America, so the term “North American” usually used as a contrast against Latin American, would come to encompass Mexico, PR, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic if we went by geography.

      Aaaagh!! I think conservatives should just pound away at Sonia Sotomayor’s record and not get caught up in her ethnic status as a first. By the time the 2010 midterm elections roll around, Hispanics aren’t going to be caring much about her anyway. They already seem to be waning in their enthusiasm now that she’s come out as an abortionist.

    • proreason says:

      I don’t get it.

      Having a tough time wrapping my brain around how someone with a Spanish or Portugese background, but no Central American ancestors can be Hispanic.

      The whole deal about Hispanics is the Central American part.

      People don’t think someone from Spain or Portugal is Hispanic.

      It’s even questionable, imho, to say that somebody from South America is Hispanic.

      But it also isn’t worth arguing about, because what SHOULD matter is a person’s current values, not their lineage.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      Just think about how White South Africans feel.

    • bronzeprofessor says:


      I don’t get it either. The best I can offer is that “Hispanic” came, via Nixon politics circa 1970, from the Spanish term “hispano” which came from “hispano-hablantes” which means “those who speak Spanish.” so the term Hispanic referred to people who spoke Spanish; the term seemed to make sense in the early 1970s when they were searching for an umbrella term to cover three different ethnic groups all of which had increased in size — Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban. Mexicans and Puerto Ricans were mostly Democrat, while Cubans were mostly Republican. Mexicans were largely mestizo (Indian + white), while Puerto Ricans in the US tended to be largely Afro-Castilian (black + Spanish), and Cubans in the US tended to be mostly white even though many Cubans in Cuba — at that time, before the Mariel boatlift — were entirely black in appearance. Cubans and Mexicans were technically immigrant groups coming from other countries, while Puerto Ricans were not because Puerto Rico was an estado libre asociado, or free partnered state (though neither free, nor a state, nor a partner).

      Nuttiness! The problem for Nixon was, what term do we use to encompass these 3 groups? To think of them in political terms would group Mexicans & Puerto Ricans together against conservative Cubans. To think of them in racial terms would pit Puerto Ricans & Cubans (both sharing black/white issues) against Mexicans (who were more mestizo). To think of them in immigrant terms would pit Mexicans and Cubans against non-immigrant Puerto Ricans.

      In the early 1970s, the only thing Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans in the US had in common was LANGUAGE. Or at least, ancestral languages, since in all three groups, it was around 25% who spoke only English, 50% who spoke both, and 25% who spoke mostly Spanish.

      The term “Hispanic” served as a category for these three difficult-to-classify groups together. The problem is that eventually all kinds of other people popped up in the mix; including, the groups you mention — SPaniards, Brazilians, and Portuguese people — as well as many “Hispanics” who spoke no Spanish and didn’t want the Hispanic title.

      So they came up with Latino. Latino sounded more political, but the problem is it comes from “Latin,” which points to ancient Rome and her linguistic descendants, spanning out into the Francophone, Italian-speaking, Lusophone, and Hispanic worlds simultaneously.

      There’s no answer to the questions to pose. But these paragraphs above might help show why we came upon such strange and illogical terms in the first place.


    • Liberals Demise says:


  4. wardmama4 says:

    BP – you point out one of the biggest problems with this stupid racial identity politics of the Dems – in America one of the biggest sellers was that it was a melting pot.

    It used to be in the terms of the sauce – where all the people blended together in similar fashion and spoke the same language.

    Now it is like the meat and vegetables put into the pot – different shapes and sizes and not blending at all – sucking up a little of the flavor but not meshing quite as well.

    Which leaves people like you and me – a veritable hodge podge of American ancestry out in the cold. Not part of any single group.

    Which keeps all the racial issues and divisiveness alive and well – and used as a pc hammer to quash any and all debate and real discussion. My problem with Sotomayor is that she does not rule in accordance with the Constitution (which is what the Supreme Court is about) but rather with her own skewed view of America. And that is the primary reason, she should not be approved.

    It is not what America was built upon and is destroying the greatness of her.

    And yes, I dislike so much the stereotyping of groups – that everyone in the ‘group’ thinks a like, acts a like and of course votes a like. You’d think with that attitude – most Americans wouldn’t vote Dem at all.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      Speak for yourself WM……

      I am proud to be an Anglo-American, as I embrace my Scots/Irish heritage everyday. Not only in my speech=patterns but in the clothes I wear, my food preferences and my choice of music.

      Apparently, you have no idea what it’s like to receive the racially charged stares when at a stop light in my Crown Victoria with the windows down and the Ray Coniff Singers turned up loud, as I sit there in my relaxed, but attentive posture…..quietly gazing around me, taking it all in.

      Naturally, those gazes continue when I’m at the airport when people stare at me if I get out exact change to pay for my SBarro pizza slice with cheese, onion and beef on it. Or when I ask a question to the gate agent in polite, hushed tones with well- enunciated English.

      You have no idea how hard it is when people make fun of me for wearing a single-shade, pullover polo shirt, perhaps with a designer moniker on it, and they point at my belt or at my carefully laced and tied “sneakers” and laugh.

      It’s hard to be a proud Anglo-American in today’s society. When I get in my Crown Victoria with the stock size tires and factory-adjusted suspension and nondescript paintjob….and all the pointing and staring that happens. It hurts.

      Someday, maybe the college campuses will have an “Anglo-American” studies curriculum, or even Anglos only dormitories or libraries. That way young Anglo-Americans will be able to study unencumbered by the prejudice that flows so freely from other people of this country who think they are the only ones here.

      And when I turn on the TV…..almost NO programs at all that I can relate to. Always some comedy about a dysfunctional family, or some people who’s ethnicity is very pronounced…but no shows about a decent, hard-working dad and his wife and kids all facing those little things in life that make it funny. Like the time I went to school and forgot to bring two #2 pencils for the scholastic aptitude test day. Boy….did I catch heck for that! It all worked out though since Mr Murphy had brought some spares (just in case) and he let me borrow one. But not before I got that evil-eye.

      And I had to give it back after the test.

      Pretty exciting stuff.

      Nope….just TV shows about kid bringing guns to school, getting pregnant, or being wanted for murder. My Anglo-American heritage is all but ignored. As a matter of fact, if they DO have a Scots/Irish kid on one of those shows, they just use him as the brunt of all the jokes. You have no idea how that makes me feel as a person. Well, I’ll tell you. It makes me feel small; Like I don’t matter. Not ALL Anglo kids are stupid. And just because we’re Anglos doesn’t automatically mean we’re all good at math, either.

      Well, I suppose I’ve said enough. But to be honest, I’m tired of being segregated out because I don’t fit in in their eyes.

      (ok…the preceding is a satire on how some people in society see it. You can easily see that with the tables turned how ridiculous it is)

    • bronzeprofessor says:

      Rusty, play your Ray Coniff singers with pride! Blare it! I would hope that a wise Scotch-Irish Anglo-American with a richness of experience would more often than not pick better music than a wise Latina who hasn’t had that experience.

  5. Dizzee says:

    As referenced in earlier articles, Sotomayor has admitted that one cannot entirely throw away personal background when making decisions. It is clear that Sotomayor’s comments combined with another’s personal experience has everything to do with how a person may react to something she says. Of course that is okay in the exchange of dialogue. However, it is also clear that we all operate with a burden of bias. Bias due to our associations of race, gender, sexuality, and especially history. I do believe that we are moving closer and closer to a society based more on MERIT. Unfortunately, some people see creating “diversity” as resistance to this cause. I believe that a TRULY diverse decision making body would have to indeed make decisions based on merit rather than race because there wouldn’t be unspoken rules about who to “employ” or “accept.” As an African American woman educated in Detroit Public Schools, the idea of merit alone is a scary idea, as schools close everyday and the district is threatening bankruptcy. And so, I stand biased – but that is such an ugly word. I am sensitive to those who have a similar story as mine but, I am NOT insensitive to those who have a different story. I believe I can learn something from people who don’t look like, think like, and act like me. Otherwise, there is just constant rhetoric and reactions and no enlightenment.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:


      The bigger issue at hand is that Sotomayor makes decisions based on that bias and merit. Not based on the root of law, which is the Constitution. No justice should make a ruling based on empathy and merit, or even precedent for that matter (which she seems to do a lot) but on the rule of law. That…is called justice.

      I disagree with your viewpoint as I’ve seen law swerve dangerously away from constitutionality and instead move into the empathy-arena with “hate-crimes” being the most obvious incarnation of that.

    • proreason says:

      Dizzee, interesting and thoughtful post.

      I now think the biggest problem with Sotomeyer is that she seems so willing to lie about what she has said. If, instead, she thought about it and said something similar to what you said, I would not be so concerned.

      But it’s hard to fathom a willing liar on the Supreme Court.

    • TwilightZoned says:

      Pro-I have to agree with you. Sotomayor has done a total 180 from her speech material and her answers given to them during the hearing. At one point mentioning she understood how people would feel about those words “if they were taken out of context.” Graham should have jumped all over her as none of the words brought to light from her speeches were taken out of context. I believe she is disingenuous and once confirmed (Graham-“Unless you have a total meltdown..”) will go about the business of inserting race and gender (empathy) when making decisions. I’d like to think this hearing is a wake-up call, but we all know died in the wool libs don’t change.

  6. Dizzee says:

    Hi Rusty,

    I truly cannot speculate on Sotomayor’s every decision, and so I won’t attempt to do that. I’m sure you know more than I do. But I would like to think a woman who has come this far has exercised some fairness in judgment. But alas I could be wrong as my mom tells me on several occasions. This will be all for today as I am fighting the urge to include a disclaimer, lol.

  7. tranquil.night says:

    Stepping away from the racial aspect of the discussion for a second, this is the part of the reference to Cardozo that troubled me the most: “and during his short tenure on the bench one of the factors that he was so well known for was his great respect for precedent and his great respect for — respect and deference to the legislative branch and to the other branches of government and their powers under the Constitution.”

    We already discussed that precedent is a judge’s way of taking the fifth on the hotbutton political issues. Truth be told, I don’t think Sotohater has any interest in following precedent, however she might cite obscure and illogical precedents in history to try and support whatever it’ll be Obama calls her to do for him.

    The Supreme Court is not supposed to be deferential. It is a watch-dog leg of our tri-pedal government; a very, very important one since it is supposed to be the one of reason for times like this when the people run stupidly amok and line the halls of the legislative and executive branch with morons. To say you admire a deferential justice during a time when being deferential would equate to a blank check for this administration and congress to do with the constitution as they please; it is very revealing – but again, in no way surprising.

    • proreason says:

      TN, good catch.

      I think she cited that to bolster her argument that she insn’t a judicial activist, hence she has “repect for precedent” and “respect and deference to…..the other branches”

      Again, it’s an obvious lie, because it flies in the face of her past actions, both inside and outstide the courtroom.

      The evidence is that she is an idealogue, and would defer or oppose the other branches based on her personal ideology. Moreover, she is a bully, and if she disagrees, she will show contempt, not respect to the other branches.

  8. bronzeprofessor says:


    Okay, it just dawned on me — if having Spanish speaking ancestors makes you Spanish, or speaking it yourself, these people are all Hispanic!!!

    –William F. Buckley. According to the biography Strictly Right, Buckley grew up speaking Spanish and French before he knew English, because his family was involved in international trade, and he grew up in Mexico and France before living in an entirely Anglophone environment.

    –Marilyn Monroe. In her autobiography (though it’s contested) she says the reason for her strange speaking style was that as a girl in Los Angeles all her neighbors were Mexican and Japanese. She acquired a Spanish/Japanese accent in English which she tried to fix through speech classes, but the diction instruction made it worse.

    –Robert E. Lee. After serving in Mexico, he returned and became a leader in West Point. In the early 1850s, he introduced Spanish as a foreign language at West Point, which was the beginning of the widespread instruction of the language in American schools. French, Greek, and Latin had previously been the languages of choice.

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