Is Sotomayor Biased? Of Course: All Judges are Biased

by Editor on July 16, 2009

There has been an endless stream of criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor for saying that she would “hope that a wise Latina woman…would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male.” This prompted many to call her a “clearly” biased judge.

But this argument is ridiculous. She was merely saying that a person’s life experience impacts their judgments and beliefs. Of course this must be true. That’s why some judges are more conservative and some are more liberal and some are in the middle. That’s why the Bush-era Supreme Court nominees have shifted the court to the right. Their life experiences affect them in a way that makes them more conservative in their interpretations of the law.

People have tried to argue that judges should be completely unbiased. Of course, they should not let their personal views and beliefs directly impact their legal judgments. But the whole point of judges is that they are making judgments. They are interpreting the law. Naturally, they must do this objectively and not subjectively. But even their objective view will be colored by their life experience. That’s why different judges come to different conclusions. When there is a 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling, as has happened often in recent years, does that mean that the 4 judge minority was biased and “wrong.” Of course not. It means that they came to a different conclusion based on their interpretation of the law.

If there was no room for interpretation, then we wouldn’t need judges at all. Everything would simply be true or false, black or white, right or wrong.

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