US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, herself Catholic, told the students of Brooklyn Law School on Friday she believes “there is a disadvantage from having (five) Catholics, three Jews, everyone from an Ivy League school” on the highest court in the land. Sotomayor graduated from Yale Law School.
The justice did not refer by name to President Obama’s candidate to fill the gap left by the demise of Catholic supreme court justice Antonin Scalia — but it just so happens that Judge Merrick Garland is Jewish.
She noted that several of the current eight justices are from New York City, like herself, and none of them have practiced criminal defense law except in a white-collar setting.
Judge Merrick Garland was born and raised in Chicago.
According to AP, in an answer to questions about diversity on the court submitted by the students, Sotomayor suggested more varied backgrounds help justices “educate each other to be better listeners and better thinkers because we understand things from experience.”
Sotomayor recalled an argument made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg back in 2009, when she told her all-male colleagues about the devastating realities of a strip-search of a middle-school girl. The male justices assumed it was a lot like changing for gym class in a locker room, since, obviously, they had “never been a 13-year-old girl.” The majority of the court was convinced by Ginsburg and ruled 8-1 that such a search was unconstitutional.
Sotomayor agreed that, naturally, we expect the court’s decisions to depend on the law and not on the individual justices personal experiences, but, nevertheless, “a different perspective can permit you to more fully understand the arguments that are before you and help you articulate your position in a way that everyone will understand,” the justice said.