July 29, 2009
Posted: 07:47 AM ET
By Daria Roithmayr & Guy-Uriel Charles. Roithmayr is a law professor at the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law, where she teaches on race and law. She worked for Sen. Edward Kennedy as special counsel on the Clarence Thomas and David Souter confirmation hearings. Guy-Uriel Charles is a law professor at Duke Law School where he is the founding director of the Center on Law, Race, and Politics.
No one was surprised when the subject of race dominated the public conversation during Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings. What was surprising was how unwilling both sides of the aisle were to talk about race openly.
Republicans tried to argue that race should be completely separated from judicial decision-making.
For their part, Democrats tried to minimize the importance of her race to her decision-making by focusing on her record, to show that her race had played no role in her decisions.
Judge Sotomayor herself suggested that life experiences are an important part of the process of judging, but then sought to minimize the difference that those experiences might have made to a particular result.
Most people understand that life experiences and racial identity do affect the decision-making process. But is this something to be lamented or celebrated? We think the latter.
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