Why different cloth?

June 7, 2009 

Your May 29 editorial "American story" and a May 28 Point of View article argued that diversity on the Supreme Court is very important. You wrote that the justices cannot be, and should not be, cut from identical cloth. And law professor William Marshall asserted that a decision resulting from a range of perspectives is likely to be a better decision than one that stems from one perspective alone.

Hard to disagree with that, but I am frankly confused. I do not know enough about Judge Sonia Sotomayor to have an opinion about her qualifications. My confusion is why a particular kind of diversity (gender, ethnicity, rags-to-riches, etc.) is so desirable on the Supreme Court.

Clearly Sotomayor's diversity credentials would be important in the legislative branches where laws are formed and people's desires and needs are represented. But why on the appellate bench? Saying that appellate courts have more than one judge for a reason does not by itself answer the question. Are not two minds (of people of competence and good will) better than one? Why do race and gender matter?

I suspect that some of the people who celebrate her contributions to diversity would also like to see Justice Clarence Thomas retire to Savannah and lead tours through the Garden of Good and Evil. So maybe diversity per se is not the main consideration. At any rate, it is a serious question. Why is diversity so important on the Supreme Court?

Virgil Early,


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