Makes Me Wanna Holla: Supreme Court Nominations “Empathy” Hypocrisy

By Guest Columnist Jul 16, 2009

By Andrew Grant-Thomas “During the campaign, [Obama] promised to nominate someone who’s got the heart and the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young, teenaged mom. The implication is that our judges today don’t have that. Do you realize how astounding that is? The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, to be African-American or gay or disabled or old…. I believe that standard is antithetical to the proper role of a judge. Judge Sotomayor… you must demonstrate that you will strictly interpret the Constitution and our laws and will not be swayed by your personal biases or your political preferences, which you’re entitled to…A nominee who does not adhere to these standards necessarily rejects the role of a judge as dictated by the Constitution and should not be confirmed.” –Opening statement of Senator Tom Coburn in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, July 13, 2009. — SENATOR COBURN: You know, I think at times during these hearings you have been unfairly criticized or characterized as that you don’t care about the less fortunate, you don’t care about the little guy, you don’t care about the weak or the innocent. Can you comment just about Sam Alito, and what he cares about, and let us see a little bit of your heart and what’s important to you in life? JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO: When a case comes before me involving, let’s say, someone who is an immigrant–and we get an awful lot of immigration cases and naturalization cases–I can’t help but think of my own ancestors, because it wasn’t that long ago when they were in that position… When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account… COBURN: Thank you. —Exchange between Senator Tom Coburn and Judge Samuel Alito during Alito’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, January 11, 2006. Andrew Grant-Thomas is the Deputy Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity.