Tuesday, May 26, 2009

LHS Alum, Hon. Carlos Moreno, Cal. Supreme Ct. Justice, close, but Obama's U.S. Supreme Court Nominee is Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

"President Obama has picked Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the Federal Appeals Court as his nominee for the Supreme Court. If her nomination is approved by the Senate, the 54-year-old Sotomayor will be the first Hispanic to serve on the High Court." And that's the way KABC AM 790 stated the outcome in their email. Carlos Moreno, Justice of the California Supreme Court, and LHS Cl. of 1966, was among the names on the short list for this nomination, noted as the only male of the contenders in that group.

At the time, I noted that President Obama was looking at the variouis considerations for this nomination, including party affiliation, gender, ethinic background, and of course, judicial experience and the types of decisions that were made. Judge Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican ethnicity, and had been on the federal bench in New York as a judge at various levels since 1992. She had been considered for nomination to this position when Sandra Day O'Conner retired.

The interesting thing ahout this picture, individual nominees and contenders aside for now, is that this is NOT a case where you have complete neutrality as to selection for the job. The idea of the law is that the judges will apply legal principles and weigh evidence, conduct proceedings and do all that a system is supposed to do under the law in an equal fashion without bias for any reason. Well, that's the general idea.

But this is the highest court in the nation and that idea of neutrality is something that has no real application in the selection process. You see that details are important as to a nominee. Since the appointments are for life, once they are in, they stay there. This process is as political as any election to public office ever could be. The nominee will have to go through the process of Senate confirmation and that could be an easy step or an ordeal, as history has shown.

The nominee, Judge Sotomayor satisfied two needs for President Obama: She was Latina ("Hispanic" in the government's language), and she was a female. That will cover two needs in a political context that help Obama. Experience and quality help, but all potential nominees are pretty much at or above the level to qualify for that.

Our alum, Carlos Moreno, met the need as to his ethnicity, but the female contenders had the edge and that was important. The selection process is not over and the nature of Sonia Sotomayor's decisions will be evaluated by the politicians to try to see how she will affect the future of the legal decisions to be made by the Court. Too much controversy is not good and there's lots more that can sway the choice on approval.

Getting to the nominee's personal background, you can see that education was a key to her achievement, a strong value in their family as she grew up. The Washington Post story includes the following,

Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education. Driven by an indefatigable work
ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school. Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She first heard about the Ivy League from her high school debate coach, Ken Moy, who attended Princeton University, and she soon followed in his footsteps after winning a scholarship.

The above information is from the Washington Post's website 44 that presents the White House's presentation in "Primary Source, Sotomayor: The White House Story." http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/05/26/the_white_house_has_issued.html?wprss=44

In today's announcement, there's already criticism by some factions, but what did I say about this being a political process? A criticism of a case of "reverse discrimination" was raised that involved White firefighters challenging the invalidation of an exam that was said to be biased against a minority group.

Trying to say "reverse discrimination" is another kind of discrimination is an incorrect analysis. This identification itself handles the label of "discrimination" in what I think is wrong. There is really no "reverse" discrimination without assigning some fixed reference point to base your judgment on. Something that involves discrimination or unfair treatment based on some distinguishing factor, usually an unchangeable characteristic, IS "discrimination," and to apply a qualification of "reverse" here seeks to put one type of action as the primary set of facts or method that arises and then everything else is different or "reverse," implying subordinate. To me, that already loads the question and makes for a lot of prejudgment on the issue.

Something is discrimination or it is not. The label "reverse" feeds the common views. People have the stereotypes in their heads and being "unusual" or infrequently encountered makes "reverse discrimination" a catchy phrase to apply as a label, but no less offensive.

And on all that, we shall see, but the selection process for a nominee is an entirely political one with lots of planning involved. The confirmation phase will continue to be considering whatever elements or features that people can connect up with the suitability for the position as Supreme Court Justice.

No matter that this nomination went to another jurist, it still was a substantial accomplishment for Justice Moreno to be considered here. The thing that we should notice is that the family is often the source of giving education a high value as a factor for these people as noted by Judge Sotomayor and in other remarks of the past by Justice Moreno.

The idea that education is not valued by so many, both students and families, in LAUSD and in other districts, is what I think would be the most influential factor for producing the poor outcomes that we are having from the school systems. If that would change, a lot more improvement would follow. It's not the case for all of the students, but for many, too many. The family, as many already knew, is the most influential source of a person's knowledge and values from an early age.