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July 14th, 2009
07:22 PM ET

We Listen – Your comments 7/14/09

Editor's Note: As Judge Sotomayor’s second day of Senate confirmation hearings prepared to commence, many of Tuesday’s American Morning viewers were carefully scrutinizing the first day’s proceedings.  Most remarked that empathy must absolutely be considered when interpreting the law.

  • Ken: Yes, a judge needs empathy. If you just want a robot then replace all justices with a giant computer which will make all decisions. By the way why was senator kyle not wearing a jacket during the hearing. I think it was to be disrespectful to judge Sotomayor. Why don't you show his disrespect. What a smart ***.
  • Vicki: Everyone- including lawyers, judges and politicians- synthesizes and interprets information through the lenses of their collective experiences. The mindsets, interpretation and application of the facts and laws, and decisions made by white males are greatly influenced by their collective experiences. That is precisely why the laws, prior legal precedent and public policy favors whites and why Republicans do not want it to change. Republicans want to protect the status quo precisely because whites are favored. It's stupid, irrational and illogical to think that an individuals values and belief systems do not influence their world views.
  • Jim: In the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor, I believe she is prejudiced, and will legislate from the bench. There is no place for Empathy in a court room for a Judge. I want a Supreme Court Judge that follows, exactly, the Rule of Law, and one that actually understands our Constitution as it was written. I've not heard anyone say anything about Ms. Sotomayor being a Constitutional Scholar. Have you? But then I disagree with almost all of President Obama's agenda. BTW, have you noticed the lack of "Separation" between the "Powers" as of late?
  • GJ: Please consider concept of "Accurate Empathy" Re: Sotomayor hearings: 1) revisit Jonah Lehrer's "How We Decide" p. 47: "patients >>unable<< to experience emotions...proved incapable of selecting the right cards (i.e., making good decisions). Emotional feeling is essential to decision-making. 2) Writing as psychologist, we have the concept of "accurate empathy" – the ability of therapist to >>understand<< a person's experience >>without<< the psychologist's bias interfering. Just the opposite from the way "empathy" is trying to be portrayed in debate over Sotomayor.
  • Peter: As an American in Canada, I support Sotomayor as a Supreme Court justice. If personal backgrounds played no part in the Court's judgments, why aren't all rulings 9-0? Of course one's empathies and interests play a part in rulings. They should.

Is empathy and background important when interpreting the law of the United States? Should these factors be removed from such a process? What issues do you consider important regarding interpretation of the law?

Many also questioned the GOP senators on the panel, wondering if they would continue to assert that Sotomayor will push her personal agenda on the Court.

  • Bug: Didn't know if you noticed, but isn't it peculiar that Kyle of AZ and Sessions of AL plus a host of other GOP mouth pieces are out for Sotomayor by calling her a racist? I mean these guys come from states whose judicial history is so suspect that I would be trying to be cleaner than Mr. Clean at these hearing. Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tenn, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas, LA, Florida and Arizona have some serious history involving the blatant violations of Black, Native American and Latino civil rights. While nothing really shocks me anymore where the GOP and the RingWingNuts are concerned, you would think these idiots would figure that some one would have explored why Sotomayor said what she did about being able to judge more fairly, and come to the realization that she was correct. Unless the minority was an Uncle Tom or Tia Tomassia, they would expect a minority to rule more fairly than any of the white judges that have presided over courts in at least 48 states. How about bring this up, I can't figure out why you guys are avoiding it? Afraid of FOXNEWS?
  • Bernadette: It is time for Sen. Orin Hatch to retire. His memory is going the way of selective forgetting. You should have asked him about the fact that he and other Republicans tried to do away with PL94-142 which protected handicapped children. A case pertaining to Dyslexic children and private schooling went before the Supreme Court during the 1980's. The judges ruled in favor of Dyslexic children having an option for the 'least restrictive environment' for their education. Public School Administrators appealed the decision because they did not want to pay tuition for private schools or set a very dangerous precedent for other handicapped children to have the opportunity to succeed outside of the public school setting. Then Sen. Hatch and other Republicans jump on the bandwagon to water down and eventually do away with PL 94-142 under the Reagan Administration. He is the LAST one to speak on what is needed for the Supreme Court!
  • Jerry: Just viewed John Roberts with Senator Hatch. I find it queer that the senator can have "personnel" feelings about an issue such as same sex marriage, stem cell research, gun laws, school prayer or any other personal conduct issue, but this Judge shouldn't express those points of view. He can't fool me: do as I say not as I do. Or could it be the increasing count of Hispanic voters in UTAH.
  • Dr. Sam: Senators Diane Feinstein and Sheldon Whitehouse said it like it is: Republicans shout about what they call the "judicial activism" of the other side. Sen. Whitehouse (Rhode Island) made a most forceful argument for progressive judges, exposing Republican hypocrisy. Democratic Presidents have tended to be overly cautious, even mildly timid. Republican Presidents have acted boldly to install justices with extreme right wing views. They have used the euphemism of "strict constructionists" to secure their wishes. Thus have they installed unabashed rightists such as Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Alito. Democratic appointees to the bench are mildly left of center. The court cannot become a citadel for ordinary citizens, especially minorities (gays, lesbians, ethnics, women, religious groups, atheists, etc) can ultimately retreat if they ignore issues of equity and fundamental justice. That is what is wrong with the current composition of the Supreme Court! Right wing judges routinely trumpet a hard vision of ideological finality. Yet, the law is not mathematics with very predictable results. Rightists, unlike Democrats, deny that they put their own particular gloss, cultural predispositions and philosophic orientation in their interpretation of the constitution. Hamilton was wrong when he asserted in No. 78 of The Federalist that the judiciary has "neither force nor will, but merely judgment." Frankfurther reminded us that "It is the Constitution we are interpreting, not an insurance clause in small type," that "it is inadmissibly a narrow conception to "disregard the gloss which life has written upon them."" Therefore, empathy and life experiences matter. Since the Constitution is not exhaustive, it leaves judges with lots of room to do what they want!

What do you think of the senators on the panel? Can they be fair and remove their personal experiences from the process so that Judge Sotomayor is appropriately considered for this position?

Filed under: We Listen
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Dave

    This is a bad choice for any outdoorsman and gun owner who abides by the law.
    You notice she skirted a detailed answer to the 2nd ammendment question, and was allowed to get away with it.
    The criminals will still get guns, because they are criminals!!!!

    We the law abiding people will suffer with her in office. But that is getting to be the norm in this country.

    July 15, 2009 at 11:10 am |
  2. Jimmy

    On the case of the swim club. I understand there was a wrong done and that something has to be done. But the law suit that the day care is going on with, WHO benefits from that? Are the kids going to get anything out of that, will they be compensated with the money that the lawyers are going to be asking for? Or will they just say we did good and that the kids will benefit in a moral way and by learning that what they went thru was wrong and this is what happens when someone treats anyone wrong because of race,color,religious belief.

    July 15, 2009 at 9:29 am |
  3. Roger Ritthaler

    Oh, yeah, what I want in a judge or the Supremes is empathy for my case... especially if I want to win. Sure the "Merchant of Venice" had a line about being "tempered with mercy", but I assumed that that was referring to the "punishment" phase, not the actual decision of "guilt" or applicability.

    July 15, 2009 at 9:18 am |
  4. George Tsirigotis

    In the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor, I believe she is prejudiced and will legislate from the Bench. Empathy has no place in the Supreme Court. Why do you think the statue of Justice, pictured holding up a set of scales, is blindfolded? So She can Judge without regard to Race, Creed or Social Status!

    July 15, 2009 at 7:48 am |
  5. Bill

    I guess the Puerto Rican judge thinks its ok to discriminate against whites i.e. the New Haven case. Her comments about white men are racist, period. The liberal Democrates can spin it any way they want , they always do but the fact remainds she is a racist. You can only imagine what the outcry would have been from the bias media if a white man had disparaged hispanics. The liberals make an absolute art form of the double standard. Her attempt to explain away the racist comment is nothing more than a lie.
    Have her sit down and pick someone else.

    July 15, 2009 at 7:14 am |
  6. Steve

    A judge needs to bring everything to the job, empathy, experience, knowledge, objectivity etc. If they only follow the Rule of Law, you end up with Dred Scott, no Brown v Board of Education, accounting firms aware of fraudulent business dealings not being held liable, governing bodies able to seize private property in order to hand over to developers etc. It is the court of last resort for Americans of all types. Please give me judges who bring everything to their job. Given the matter thought, I would hope most people would prefer an activist judge to a rubber stamp judge.

    July 15, 2009 at 7:07 am |
  7. John

    I find it interesting that Republicans ask whether abortion is specifically mentioned in the Constitution but do not ask whether Uzi's , assault rifles , or armor piercing exploding bullets are specificaly mentioned.

    I do not think the founding fathers had these weapons in mind when
    constructing the second amendment.

    July 15, 2009 at 6:25 am |
  8. Aware

    Every American citizen better pay attention to this proceeding because your individual rights and protections from the lawless are up for grabs with this candidate. I personally do not think she should be confirmed but as usual, this entire circus is just a stage show because in the end, they will do whatever they want to and she will be confirmed.

    God save America!

    July 15, 2009 at 6:23 am |
  9. Vernon

    Justice is blindfolded - she doesn't have 1 eye open for empathy, that's just another way to legislate from the bench.

    July 15, 2009 at 6:09 am |
  10. PHF

    Hi there family, just wanted to join you online for once along with the many mornings i wake up and/or also sleep during your program...You really make a difference in my mornings, keep up the good work as I will. Yours, PHF , the one and only...hope to hear confirmation of your receipt of this message on your next show i hope to hear of.

    July 15, 2009 at 12:31 am |