Sotomayor Gets Personal in Affirmative Action Case

She thinks court is 'out of touch with reality,' and chief justice criticizes her criticism
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2014 5:40 PM CDT
Sotomayor Gets Personal in Affirmative Action Case
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Sonia Sotomayor had her "most personal moment" yet in her four-plus years on the Supreme Court with today's dissent in a key affirmative action case, writes Robert Barnes at the Washington Post. Sotomayor thinks the court blew it in allowing the University of Michigan to ban racial preferences in admissions, and she drew on her own history as a Bronx high school student from a poor family who got into Princeton with such help. Her 58-page dissent ended up being three times' longer than Anthony Kennedy's controlling opinion, notes SCOTUSBlog. In it, she singled out for criticsm a famous line from Chief Justice John Roberts in 2007: "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," he wrote. Sotomayor called the sentiment "out of touch with reality," reports Talking Points Memo.

“This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable,” she wrote. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.” Sotomayor, joined in her dissent by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, accused her colleagues of trying to "wish away" racial inequality. Roberts didn't let it go unchallenged. In a short concurring opinion, he wrote that "it is not 'out of touch with reality' to conclude that racial preferences may themselves have the debilitating effect of reinforcing precisely that doubt, and—if so—that the preferences do more harm than good." He added: "People can disagree in good faith on this issue, but it similarly does more harm than good to question the openness and candor of those on either side of the debate." (More Sonia Sotomayor stories.)

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