05/27/09 — Own merits: 'Quota' picks are actually a form of discrimination

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Own merits: 'Quota' picks are actually a form of discrimination

OK, here is something that you are going to read or hear in very few places.

And you certainly won't hear very many people taking on the topic in Washington, either.

There has been much talk about President Barack Obama's pick for the next justice of the Supreme Court. No great scandal here. He won the election, it is his choice whom he puts on the court.

Democrats are touting Sonia Sotomayor because, in part, she would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court.

Republicans are saying they have to be careful about how they approach criticism of the appellate judge's record, because they do not want to alienate the Latino voting block.

Well, first of all, Sotomayor should be picked not because of anything that even comes close to her sex or ethnicity. If she is the best available candidate for the job, she should be on the list.

And if there is anyone out there who might be offended by tough questioning that might come the nominee's way -- shame on you.

One of the most insidious forms of discrimination -- and one that often masquerades as good works -- is the assumption that a candidate who is a woman or who is from a certain ethnic group needs to be pushed because he or she would fill a quota -- or that he or she should not have to endure the scrutiny that goes along with a nomination because it might be interpreted as prejudice.

This nation does not need a "Hispanic on the court." It needs the most savvy legal mind, with the best understanding of the role of a Supreme Court justice. If that best candidate is a Hispanic woman, more power to her, but she should not want the job if her ethnicity is the reason she is on the list.

To assume that a woman or a Hispanic or a black man or woman, for that matter, needs special dispensation to be a judge, a legislator or a dog catcher is insulting.

There are many people of divergent backgrounds who are quite capable of earning their own way -- and have done so, landing at the top of their careers without assistance or special favors.

They can hold their own with anyone -- and they do not need special care to succeed.

That is the kind of attitude and career we want to encourage -- and to make sure every child knows is possible, no matter where they come from. That is independence and true equality.

So, let the questioning begin -- this is an extremely important job and a lifetime appointment. If Judge Sotomayor is the right person for the job, she will be ready and willing to meet the challenge.

Published in Editorials on May 27, 2009 10:25 AM