Obama nominates black lesbian federal judge: So what?

Obama nominates black lesbian federal judge: So what?

When I first read the headline at Politico — “Obama to nominate first black lesbian judge in 20 years” — my first impulse was to ask, “Why is he planning to wait that long. By 2034, his presidency will have been over for 18 years.” Then I read the first few paragraphs, which resolved the ambiguity and paved the way for my second impulse — to ask, “What difference does it make?”

I realize those words paraphrase a question asked rhetorically and somewhat huffily by a former high-ranking member of the Obama cabinet, but I was not trying to be whimsical. I don’t understand why these particular traits would prompt Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere to treat the nomination of Staci Michelle Yandle as an important milestone.

Dovere writes that “increasing diversity on the bench has been a legacy priority for Obama,” but he never explains why he views that as a positive? Judges, according to their job description, are supposed to be impartial arbiters. Their sole task is to apply the law to cases that come before them. If they are going to dispatch their duties fairly, what difference does their color, their religion, or their lifestyle make? If a black and/or lesbian defendant comes before the bench, is a Judge Yandle apt to treat that person differently from a non-black and/or straight defendant? And, if so, shouldn’t that disqualify her from consideration?

A very similar question came up during the 2008 presidential campaign. When both major party candidates were asked about the kind of Supreme Court justice they would nominate if elected, Sen. John McCain said he’d opt for a strict constructionist, someone who would follow the letter of the law as written in the Constitution. But Sen. Barack Obama had a strikingly different answer:

You know, Justice Roberts said he saw himself just as an umpire. But the issues that come before the court are not sport. They’re life and death. And we need somebody who’s got the heart to recogni— the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young, teenaged mom; the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.

Empathy, though an admirable quality, is inimical to the job of serving on the Supreme Court or any other bench. Despite Obama’s claim to have taught Constitutional law, he never heard, or at least heeded, the expression “Justice is blind.”

“The White House,” Dovere writes, “is hoping that filibuster rules changes will speed the confirmation process for Yandle,” and they probably will. But that is only because many of the Democrats who make up the majority in the Senate share the president’s wrongheaded passion for appointing to the courts people who exhibit empathy rather than jurists.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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