Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Some perspective on and from Sotomayor

According to today's New York Times coverage, upon joining the Federal District Court in Manhattan in 1992, the newly nominated Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor reportedly told journalists, "The cases that shake the world don’t come along every day. But the world of the litigants is shaken by the existence of their case, and I don’t lose sight of that, either."

This sound byte comforts me, as it indicates Sotomayer's capacity for constructive empathy. Psychologist Carl Rogers defines empathy as "To perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the 'as if' condition." [source]

Taking the idea of empathy - and its importance as a quality in a good, constructive judge - one step further is anthropologist Edward Twitchell Hall Jr. who explains that there is a individual perception that colors every experience: "experience as it is perceived through one set of culturally patterned sensory screens is quite different from experience perceived through another." [source] Therefore suggesting that only one that is empathetic enough to consider the perspective of the litigants will be capable of understanding the experiences, choices and decisions of the parties as well. I look forward to seeing Sotomayer put this sense into practice in the country's highest court.

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