Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Great News: Sotomayor Not a "Shrinking Violet"

Several newspapers -- including the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times -- are reporting that Justice Sonia Sotomayor peppered lawyers with questions during her first day of oral arguments. Apparently, Sotomayor asked more questions than any other Justice -- including Justice Scalia, who is known for his vigorous interrogation style.

Also, the retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor recently said (thanks to SCOTUS for the tip) that having two women on the bench is great, but this is not enough. She also said that the Court should not consist of "nine clones." During confirmation hearings, conservatives attacked Sotomayor for not describing gender as a neutral category in some of her past comments. Many conservatives tried to contrast Sotomayor and O'Connor -- arguing that O'Connor treated gender as neutral to judging. Not only do O'Connor's rulings contradict this view, but her recent statements do so as well.


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Elizabeth said...

having two women on the bench is great, but this is not enough

No kidding. Women are 50%+ of the population, but are conspicuously underrepresented in the Supremes (and in politics in general).

liberal dissent said...

I think it will eventually change, women make up the majority of law students now, but if you go back 30 years--which is the approximate generation you'll likely be looking to fill a candidate from--this wasn't true. If 1 out every 100 lawyers is qualified to be a SC justice, and there are 1,000,000 male lawyers of that experience level, and 100,000 female, the sex ratio will inevitably favor men. I have no doubt that 30-40 years from now women will likely make up a majority of the SC.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

LS: The top of the pyramid does not respond well to statistics. There is a much shorter clock on, say, law firm partners. It usually takes around 8 years to become a partner at the big firms. Women have been attending law schools in large numbers for a long time now -- and becoming associates at the big firms too. But they are grossly underrepresented as partners in firms.

liberal dissent said...

Well, 8 years before the recession, maybe...But honestly if you factor in the fact that females are more likely to a) move into non-profit organizations, and b) leave law full-time for at least a couple of years to have children, the numbers are significantly less skewed. And I don't think it's quite as grossly underrepresented as you think, if you look at any large firm's website and look through their attorney directory, a significant number of females will be partners or shareholders. That doesn't mean there probably isn't still a noticeable amount of sexism in the legal field, like most fields, but I don't think it's as pervasive or debilitating as a lot of people believe.

You also may look at it being that maybe a higher percentage of women have no desire to put themselves through the tedium of working one's way up the law firm ladder. It does not provide an especially high quality of life.

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