NLGSF Urges the Senate to Confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court

Exemplary Qualifications and the Compelling Need for Diversity on the High Court Militate toward her Speedy Confirmation

San Francisco - The Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild urges the Senate to confirm Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, replacing retiring Justice David Souter. Judge Sotomayor's exemplary qualifications and the compelling need for diversity on the high court militate toward her speedy confirmation. Additionally, as the largest chapter of the oldest racially integrated bar association in the US, the NLGSF calls for all progressive bar associations to support this historic nomination.

Significant segments of society have been historically excluded from the benefits of our justice system, including the poor, people of color, and working class people, and it is far past time when those judges at the top of our justice system should reflect the backgrounds, hopes and understanding of the many who have been structurally excluded from our governing institutions. Moreover, conservative disparagement of Judge Sotomayor's qualifications and media frenzy over spurious allegations that she might be racist demand a response from all progressive bar associations.

Given their original sources from new nativists and neoconservatives like Tom Tancredo, Anne Coulter and Newt Gingrich, allegations that Judge Sotomayor is racist are clearly disingenuous, hyperbolic and calculated to grab headlines, while obscuring US history and sober reporting on President Obama's historic nomination of the first Latina to the US Supreme Court. The speech in question was one where Judge Sotomayor thoughtfully reflected on the difficulty of interpreting the law dispassionately while valuing her socially diverse background as a Puerto Rican woman raised in public housing in the Bronx.

"George Bush nominated and received Senate confirmation of two white males to the Supreme Court, after having his first nominee, Harriet Miers, withdraw herself from the nomination process amidst scandal," notes NLGSF president Erika Teague Briscoe, adding, "There was no vilification of their race or gender in part because white men on the Supreme Court have been the status quo ante since its creation. Like any credible bar association, the NLGSF is reviewing Judge Sotomayor's record to assess her rulings on issues of importance to us and the American people, such as racial justice, voting rights, disability rights, immigration, reproductive freedom, constitutional requirements for law enforcement, the death penalty, habeus corpus and executive power, the right to counsel and the rights of LGBT individuals."

"While we have yet to complete our review, on balance Judge Sotomayor's record appears to comport with a mainstream view of the constitution and rule of the law. We have some concerns about her rulings in asylum cases and matters of criminal justice, but she is the first intellectual powerhouse to be nominated to the Supreme Court since Antonin Scalia, whose reputation for so-called constitutional 'textual originalism' is renowned," says NLGSF executive director Carlos Villarreal.

According to NLGSF executive board member Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez, "Since the legal realism movement of the early 20th century, lawyers have understood that law is 'indeterminate,' meaning that the background, identity and worldview of judges shape how they understand the facts and interpret the law. This baseline understanding is the foundation for the belief that social diversity on the bench is necessary in a multiracial democracy.

"Without a diverse bench, people tend to lose confidence in the fairness of the decisions rendered, and without a diverse bench, the law tends to maintain the status quo rather than effectively reconcile justice and the rule of law with our rapidly changing society. In a time that is redolent of past episodes of racist nativism--like the so-called 'repatriation' of people deemed 'Mexican' during the Great Depression, the internment of Japanese America during World War II or 1954's Operation Wetback--the American people deserve a Supreme Court Justice who understands how the law impacts real people in contemporary society. Judge Sotomayor is a superb candidate for the Supreme Court of the twenty-first century."

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As the largest chapter of the first racially integrated bar association in the US, the NLGSF is dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system and seeks to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers of America to function as an effective political and social force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.