Among the material release this week by the White House is the disclosure that Judge Sonia Sotomayor belong to a private women’s-only group. The membership raises an interesting question given the controversies in the past over nominees who belong to men-only club. Should the standard be different for women or should exclusive club membership no longer be an issue in nominations?
The Sotomayor documents also reveal that her controversial comment about Latina judges giving superior opinions to white males was not a one time slip — but used repeatedly by her in speeches, here.
Sotomayor agreed to join the Belizean Grove — the female reaction to an equally secretive all-male club called the Bohemian Grove. It is a fascinating dilemma. Feminists would like object to a nominee who belonged to the Bohemian Grove, but this nominee joined a female club designed on the model of the gender-discriminatory club.
The Belizean Grove has about 125 high-ranking members and is based out of New York.
The group describes itself as “a constellation of influential women who are key decision makers in the profit, nonprofit and social sectors; who build long term mutually beneficial relationships in order to both take charge of their own destinies and help others to do the same.”
The late Chief Justice Rehnquist was attacked for having a restrictive covenant in his deed, though he insisted that he knew nothing about it, here.
Liberals insisted that Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV, a Bush nominee for the trial court, should be denied confirmation over his belonging to a club with a discriminatory past and only one known black member, here.
Nominee Vaughn R. Walker was also opposed on the basis of his membership in an all-men club. He was eventually confirmed after passing through the committee with heavy opposition.
Reagan appointees were also opposed on the basis of discriminatory clubs like Francis A. Keating 2d.
Notably, one of Clinton’s high-ranking nominees was opposed for membership in a racially exclusive club. Indeed, when Eleanor D. Acheson joined the club it did not grant female members full rights.
What is fascinating about this latest story is that Sotomayor has a profile that would normally not thrill liberals. Not only does she belong to a discriminatory club, but she voted against discrimination claims in 78 out of 96 cases. I happen to agree with many of those rulings, but there is a question of the response of some of these same groups if this were another nominee with this voting record and such a membership. As I have noted in my criticism of both the attacks from the left and right (as well as my review of Sotomayor’s decisions), there is a disconnect between the rhetoric and record of this nominee from both sides. I do not believe that Sotomayor’s record shows bias. Indeed, I find it quite impressive in a lack of bias. Moreover, her voting record should be welcomed by conservatives in a number of respects. If she continues to vote as a justice as she did as an appellate judge, the left will lose ground with her nomination in some important areas. Nevertheless, this nomination continues to be argued on the basis of robotic soundbites from groups on both the left and right — often in direct contradiction of their earlier positions.
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