Do Words Mean Things?

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, like many nominees, has come under fire for the things she has said.

In defending her judicial philosophy that she would hope that a ‘wise Latina’ would make a better judgment than a white male, Judge Sotomayor pointed to a remark that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had made: that a wise woman and wise man should be able to come to the same conclusion. Judge Sotomayor, contrasting their respective statements, concluded that Justice O’Connor could not have meant what she said.

Judge Sotomayor also defended these and other of her remarks by claiming that she was ‘misunderstood’.

Let’s review: a justice is required to take the words of another, apply them to a set of facts, and issue a ruling that explains the application of words to facts.

In Judge Sotomayor we have a Supreme Court nominee in whom are combined first, the presumptive ability to discern what a Supreme Court Justice could not have meant by her plain words, and second, the almost unbelievable inability to make herself ‘understood’.

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