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A Republican Response to Sonia Sotomayor: Criticize, Then Confirm

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By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, May 29, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor has a classic American story. So does Frank Ricci.

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Ricci is a New Haven firefighter stationed seven blocks from where Sotomayor went to law school (Yale). Raised in blue-collar Wallingford, Conn., Ricci struggled as a C and D student in public schools ill-prepared to address his serious learning disabilities. Nonetheless he persevered, becoming a junior firefighter and Connecticut's youngest certified EMT.

After studying fire science at a community college, he became a New Haven "truckie," the guy who puts up ladders and breaks holes in burning buildings. When his department announced exams for promotions, he spent $1,000 on books, quit his second job so he could study eight to 13 hours a day and, because of his dyslexia, hired someone to read him the material.

He placed sixth on the lieutenant's exam, which qualified him for promotion. Except that the exams were thrown out by the city, and all promotions denied, because no blacks had scored high enough to be promoted.

Ricci (with 19 others) sued.

That's where these two American stories intersect. Sotomayor was a member of the three-member circuit court panel that upheld the dismissal of his case, thus denying Ricci his promotion.

This summary ruling deeply disturbed fellow members of Sotomayor's court, including Judge José Cabranes (a fellow Clinton appointee), who, writing for five others, criticized the unusual, initially unpublished, single-paragraph dismissal for ignoring the serious constitutional issues at stake.

Two things are sure to happen this summer: The Supreme Court will overturn Sotomayor's panel's ruling. And, barring some huge hidden scandal, Sotomayor will be elevated to that same Supreme Court.

What should a principled conservative do? Use the upcoming hearings not to deny her the seat, but to illuminate her views. No magazine gossip from anonymous court clerks. No "temperament" insinuations. Nothing ad hominem. The argument should be elevated, respectful and entirely about judicial philosophy.

On the Ricci case. And on her statements about the inherent differences between groups, and the superior wisdom she believes her Latina physiology, culture and background grant her over a white male judge. They perfectly reflect the Democrats' enthrallment with identity politics, which assigns free citizens to ethnic and racial groups possessing a hierarchy of wisdom and entitled to a hierarchy of claims upon society.

Sotomayor shares President Obama's vision of empathy as lying at the heart of judicial decision-making -- sympathetic concern for litigants' background and current circumstances, and for how any judicial decision would affect their lives.

Since the 2008 election, people have been asking what conservatism stands for. Well, if nothing else, it stands unequivocally against justice as empathy -- and unequivocally for the principle of blind justice.


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