I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
Repeatedly press to explain what Sotomayor meant, all Gibbs could reply was: “I think — I — I have confidence in Americans reading not just part of, but the whole statement.”
That’s a great idea. Let’s read the full paragraph Sotomayor’s 32 words come from:
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
Sotomayor’s rejection of the notion that women and men would or should come to the same legal conclusions does place the later 32 words in context, damningly so. Putting aside her racial and ethnic stereotypes for a moment, wouldn’t an Hispanic man be disqualified if he made a speech even implying that he thought men made better judicial decisions “more often than not” than women?
Even so, the “inherent physiological differences” line is the most troubling line of all. What exactly did Sotomayor mean by “inherent physiological differences”? The title of her speech, printed in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, was “A Latina Judge’s Voice”. So what are the “inherent physiological differences” that Sotomayor hopes would make Latinas better judges then say Asian American men or even white women like Justice O’Connor?