Even More Diversity is Needed on the Bench - NBC New York

Even More Diversity is Needed on the Bench

Seeking religious and geographically diverse judges



    Even More Diversity is Needed on the Bench
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    Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee July 13, 2009 in Washington, DC.

    As Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) put it, barring a meltdown on her part in the hearings, Judge Sonia Sotomayor is assured of being confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court

    Well, in that case, based on recent history, I declare today that I also belong on the Court!  No, seriously, I have the main qualifications -- and not just because I'm a black guy born the West Indies (though that might help!):  I was raised Catholic and I'm a New Yorker!   

    Seriously, while "diversity" has become the seemingly biggest qualification for elevation to the court -- Sonia Sotomayor is a two-fer, being Latina and a woman -- other types of "diversity" are being ignored. 

    After being ignored/discriminated against for most of the court's existence, Roman Catholics currently make up a majority of the nine-member bench. In fact, Sotomayor will -- after Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito -- become the Supreme Court's sixth Catholic.  While there is debate how "practicing" she may be, the fact remains Sotomayor was raised -- and self-identifies -- as a Catholic. In fact, there is ideological diversity among Catholics.  That the five Catholics on the pre-Sotomayor court happen to be conservative is because, well, they were appointed by Republicans. 

    And, as everyone points out in her biography, she was raised in modest means in the New York borough of the Bronx.  She will join a court that -- to paraphrase Billy Joel -- has a New York metropolitan area state of mind:  Trenton-born Scalia was raised in Elmhurst, Queens. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jewish, not Catholic) was born and raised in Brooklyn; Samuel Alito is also Trenton-born and grew up in the Jersey suburbs.    

    With that history, it's not surprising that some of the most barbed comments between justices come from the straight-talking, in-your-face New York/New Jersey contingent. Scalia's sharp elbows in opinions have been well-noted. Ginsburg has been known not to hold anything back. In fact, her sarcasm was rather evident in her dissent in the controversial Ricci firefighter case (where Alito seemed rather emotionally invested as well).  So, with that line-up, is there any doubt that the expressive Sotomayor will hold back from making sure that the Bronx won't get rolled during court hearings and debates? Fugheddaboutit!!  

    If there's any lesson to be gained here, while the president may not worry much that the court is becoming too Catholic, he might at least want to start looking west of the Mississippi in choosing his next high court pick.  Or, even west of the Hudson River.  If nothing else, it might add some mid-western gentility to court debates. 

    New York Catholic Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots.  Follow his quest for nomination to the Supreme Court on Twitter and Facebook.