Tag Archives: Judges

Women’s History Month 2013: Justice Sonia Sotomayor

20 Mar

JusticeSotomayorToday we honor and celebrate a woman dedicated to justice who is working hard to restore integrity to our nation’s highest court — quite the ambitious task while Scalia is on the bench. Sonia Sotomayor was born in the Bronx in 1954 to parents who had recently moved to New York from Puerto Rico. Her mother and grandmother stressed the importance of education, and she worked hard in school, initially hoping to be a detective (inspired by Nancy Drew). A Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis at age seven led her family and doctors to recommend a less strenuous career choice, so she decided she wanted to be a judge–I wonder if her parents detected the irony here?

She attended Princeton, where she was a distinct minority both as a woman and a Latina. She received her undergraduate degree in History, winning numerous scholastic prizes in her final year and graduating summa cum laude. She immediately started law school at Yale, where she was once again in the distinct minority. Attending on a scholarship, she was stunned when a major law firm suggested during a recruitment dinner that she was at Yale solely because she was Latina. She terminated the interview and filed a formal complaint, resulting in a favorable ruling from a campus tribunal and a formal apology from the firm.  Brava, Justice Sotomayor!

After receiving her J.D. and passing the New York Bar, she began work as an assistant district attorney, focusing on crimes against persons and police brutality. She developed a reputation for going wherever she needed to go to get evidence, regardless of the neighborhood. After a few years she went into private practice and was appointed to a number of Boards and task forces by New York governors and New York City mayors. She expanded her reputation as a strong advocate for the marginalized–a voice for social justice!

In 1991 she realized her childhood dream and became a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the first Hispanic federal judge in the state. Six years later she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second District. She faced a brutal confirmation hearing, with Senate Republicans stalling for months and grilling her on her decisions favoring gay rights and due process. Once seated, she expanded her reputation as a strong, fair judge interested in protecting the rights of the most vulnerable; imagine that, a judge working for civil rights for all?

Sonia Sotomayor became a Supreme Court Justice in 2009. She settled in quickly and works hard to ensure that the loud, conservative voices on the Court don’t dominate when cases come forward. She made news recently for harshly criticizing  a Texas prosecutor whose argument relied on racist stereotyping. During hearings on a case regarding the Voting Rights Act, she refused to allow an Alabama attorney to hide his county’s racist history.

Why would we vote in favor of a county whose record is the epitome of what caused the passage of this law to start with?

When Justices Scalia and Alito tried to bail the attorney out with far-fetched hypotheticals, she weighed in again.

The problem with those hypotheticals is obvious […] it’s a real record as to what Alabama has done to earn its place on the list. Discrimination is discrimination, and what Congress said is it continues.

Thank you, Justice Sotomayor, for standing up for those who most need it. May your time on the Court be long and productive!


Bigot of the Week Award: March 9, Judge Richard Cebull

9 Mar

Bigot of the Week

Sometimes an apology, however sincere on the surface, simply isn’t enough. This weeks’s BWA winner is a perfect example. Richard Cebull, the chief Federal District Court judge in Montana, acknowledged last week that he had sent some of his friends an e-mail containing a joke based on sexual and racist slurs against President Obama. The “joke” is in fact a grotesque racist, misogynist, anti-Obama slur directed at his mother; it’s so loathsome that TSM will not repeat it. You can see the text (and sign a petition about the judge) here if you wish. (Yes, blatant racism and misogyny from a Federal Judge–who is supposed to protect the citizens, not discriminate against them).

Unlike Rush Limbaugh’s no-pology (issued only after he started bleeding sponsors), Cebull had the class to offer an apparently sincere apology directly to President Obama.

I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family for the email I forwarded. I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself. I can assure you that such action on my part will never happen again. Honestly, I don’t know what else I can do. Please forgive me and, again, my most sincere apology.

Actually, Judge Cebull, it’s pretty clear what else you can do: resign. Not only does this message violate judicial ethics and indicate a clear racial and political prejudice, the judge was foolish enough to send it from his federal government email. He has clearly violated policy, practice, and his oath.  Although he has submitted himself for review, he should save the courts and taxpayers the time and money this will take and prove his sincere regret by stepping down from a position of trust he no longer deserves.

Thank you to my friend Jennifer Carey for this week’s Dishonorable mention which goes to washed-up teen star Kirk Cameron. It’s no surprise that he’s virulently homophobic given his past behavior, but he seems determined to remind people of this fact every time he gets a platform. Thinly disguising his bigotry with “Christian” love, he demanded that any LGBT person (even if it were his own child) must be celibate. Sorry, Kirk, you know you’re on the wrong end of history when Michele Bachmann steps up to defend you…

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