Sotomayor: My Mom Doesn’t Get It

Celina Sotomayor (AP)

The Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court were bland and brought little to surprise anyone. Certainly, if I were a US Senator I would vote to confirm. That said, I must report my unease at her response, which I heard on CSPAN, to comedian Al Franken’s question: why do you want this job. I have so far been unable to obtain the transcript of her response, but the NY Times blog The Caucus gives an account very close to what I remember:

Franken and the Job | 12:16 p.m. Why does the judge want to join the Supreme Court? asks Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota.

This prompts a lengthy story from the judge, in which her mother, Celina, and her stepfather, Omar, play a role. As she tells it, her mother couldn’t understand why she would take a job that involved a sizable pay cut from her lawyer’s work in private practice, would limit her foreign travel and would prohibit her from having friends who might come before her in court. Her stepfather apparently, at the end, turned to his wife, and said in Spanish, “You know you daughter and her stuff with public service.”

And the judge continued: “That really has always been the answer given, who I am, my love of the law, my sense of importance about the rule of law, how central it is to the functioning of our society …” Those have always created a passion in her, she added. “I can’t think of any greater service I could give to the country.”

As I recall the Judge, she said “all this was in Spanish,” wink wink, suggesting, when taken together with her verbiage here, an unpleasant condescension toward her mother –how cute, my old mom, but alas lacking in the sophistication of all those Eastern schools where I learned my selfless morality. There is no doubt that the judge has great affection for her mother, whom she has praised repeatedly in the public record. But condescension nevertheless.

As it happens, Celina Sotomayor achieved graduation from college in New York and became a Registered Nurse, passing her RN boards in English, so the Judge’s condescension is doubly misplaced.

Doubly: even if her mother had not had American higher education, or English proficiency, it is a bit outrageous to suggest that our immigrant parents and grandparents cannot be trusted with making ethical decisions as good as ours.

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