Opinion

Commentary: Supreme Court justices bring law, life experiences to bench

The oath of office for a federal judge requires a pledge to impartially administer justice. It doesn't require becoming a clone of Star Trek's Mr. Spock, devoid of emotion.

Some Republican senators have characterized the confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor as a teachable moment for instructing Americans about the role of the courts.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, on Monday set about teaching a false dichotomy between noble judges dedicated to objective truth and reckless judges pushing their own agendas.

While judging requires application of the law to a set of facts, it's not a sterile act.

Of course Supreme Court justices shouldn't pick winners and losers based on sympathy or whim. But judges are human beings who are shaped by their life experiences.

Justices might understand concepts such as due process, equal protection, cruel and unusual punishment and freedom itself a bit differently depending on the path they’ve traveled.

This past term, when lawyers argued a case involving the strip-search of a 13-year-old girl, several of the male justices didn't see the big deal. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman on the court, got it. She added an essential perspective as the justices weighed whether the search was unreasonable.

Because of references in Sotomayor's speeches and her past involvement with a civil rights group, Republicans have tried to tag her as an "activist" who would disregard the law.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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