Sotomayer and the Firefighters
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JUSTICE SOTOMAYER AND THE NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTERS
Back in the day when I was the head of the University of Idaho young democrats, I pressed hard for the Civil Rights Bill. Our members were instrumental in a major letter writing campaign that was the decisive factor in getting a key Republican Idaho Senator off the fence on the crucial cloture vote. As history records it, once the southern democrat filibuster was overcome, the measure passed with overwhelming republican support. Hubert Humphrey assured everyone at the time – in complete sincerity – that this landmark legislation was not intended to usher in reverse discrimination, just a level playing field.
Years later, when I was the head of the Alameda County Public Defender’s office (the second oldest in the world, having been started at the urging of then head DA, Earl Warren in 1927), I actively recruited African American lawyers, with excellent success and I made no concessions to quality. We hired the best. Period. Reverse discrimination cheapens the earned accomplishments of highly qualified minorities, by forever tainting them with the “lower quality, but a minority favorite” label. I didn’t like it then, even less now.
You can imagine my dismay when the current nominee ruled against a racially neutral promotion examination without a shred of evidence that there was any actual improper discrimination, solely it seems because the outcome was not “as good” as she might have expected. And you can imagine my satisfaction when the Supreme Court reversed Ms. Sotomayer, with the key vote of retiring Justice David Souter. Surely, I thought, the days of reverse/remedial discrimination (read political promotions and hiring) are over. Not so, apparently, if (as expected) the US Senate confirms President Obama’s Sotomayer nomination.
She seems to be an intelligent, serious jurist, one who meets the MQ for an appointment to the High Court, if formal qualifications were the sole test. But I simply would not be able to vote for confirmation, as a matter of principle, unless and until I became convinced that she would not undo the Supreme Court’s New Haven promotion decision.