My generation

On my Princeton lawyers list there was a bit of a dustup late last week when some excited participants started talking about the prospect of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a fellow alumna, being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama. It started with one of the participants breathlessly reporting the news; the inevitable comment from one of the inevitable troublemakers, who does not happen to be a lawyer, came next, and — well, you have to read it yourself. First, the report, then the response from “Terry”:

>>Robert Alumnus ’69 S77 wrote:

I’m pleased to see discussion suggesting that among the most eminent of Princeton lawyers is being considered for the Supreme Court seat to be vacated by Justice Souter. Hon. Sonia Sotomayor ’77. What a privilege it has been to know her, and what a fine candidate I know her to be!

Congratulations to my classmate Robert! I have made a late new year’s resolution to make a big deal out of statements of opinion masquerading as statements of fact and HE IS MY FIRST BIG DEAL since I made that resolution.

I am SO fed up with politicians, editorialists, tv talking heads, CSPAN guests, congressional committee panelists, and everybody else who is making evaluative assertions instead of making empirical assertions and letting ME make my own evaluations of the facts.

So, Robert, what makes you “know” that she’s a “fine” candidate?

Or would you prefer to modify your post to say, “Hon. Sonia Sotomayor ’77 has said and done a lot of stuff that comports with my values, prejudices, and political agenda”?

Well, Terry the troublemarker did have a point, but he didn’t put it very collegially. And our list is kind of collegial. I actually got a big kick out of this line in response from the exasperated class of ’69-er:

You are, as usual, right. I like Judge Sotomayor. I like her demeanor. I like her intelligence. I like the way she goes to the core of the issues to seek to do justice. But that’s only me, Terry, and surely the pro se bar has a better perspective, to which exposition I certainly look forward.

Regrettably, he later apologized for his line about “the pro se bar,” which I thought was great. Frankly I was quietly following the whole thing because I don’t know much or anything about Judge Sotomayor (sorry, Instapundit this didn’t help; it really is a hatchet job), until this one from a third alumnus who is a frequent and articulate contributor got me:

I immediately alerted all my classmates since very few of us in my circle knew her. We are all pulling for her nonetheless!

And I never knew this classmate I am strongly biased in favor of [is] someone who went through the same experiences at the same time and place I did.

This certainly stands for a lot of sociological phenomena all in one place. The one that hit me, though, was the last idea: I support Sonia Sotomayor because she’s “one of us” — “someone who went through the same experiences at the same time and place I did.”

This claim is a little odd considering that “very few” in his circle knew her, but maybe for that very reason it bespeaks an interesting group identification which would never have occurred to me, except perhaps from the smoking room of some old-fashioned white-WASP-men only private club which the Princeton of 1969 most assuredly was not: A candidate inherently has merit because she “went through the same experiences at the same time and place I did.”

I wish I had the energy to parse out why I find that phraseology so troubling, and a little weird. Read more…

Continued at, and originally posted on, Ron Coleman‘s Likelihood of Success blog. Ron has removed himself from the Supreme Court short list.

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