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Does Sotomayor practice identity justice?

The Senate must weigh her comments about judicial impartiality

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A court judge who ends a Major League Baseball players' strike would likely win a popularity vote – if there were one – to be a Supreme Court justice.

But Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who is President Obama's pick for the high court, probably knew better when she made that strike-ending ruling in 1995. She learned early on – perhaps starting with her childhood watching of the "Perry Mason" TV series – that a judge must be impartial before the facts and the Constitution.

It is the most important quality that Ms. Sotomayor would need to bring to the Supreme Court, if the Senate approves her.

To be sure, she would also bring a wealth of life and professional experiences to the nine-member bench – as someone who boot-strapped herself up from a Bronx housing project to earn Ivy League degrees, served as a criminal prosecutor and as a trial judge, and who now has a record in judicial opinion-writing as an appellate judge.

And as a symbol of success for Hispanics and women, Sotomayor would help inspire other women and minorities to reach for high office.

But does she have the temperament for judicial impartiality – as symbolized by the blindfold on the statue of Lady Justice holding a balance?

She was nominated for her first job on the federal bench by a Republican president (George H.W. Bush) and later as an appellate judge by a Democratic president (Bill Clinton). Her decisions on the New York circuit court reveal an ability to balance the interests of business and the individual. She says she always tries to question her own "opinions, sympathies, and prejudices."


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