Thursday, May 28, 2009

Empathy and Justice

American Heritage Dictionary...
Empathy: Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.

President Obama said a couple of years ago while on the campaign trail he wanted a Supreme Court Justice with empathy.

And now, the GOP, and the media, is making such a thing of the word empathy. What I have heard on radio talk shows, and read, is that it is not right for a judge to have empathy and if they do, then it takes away from the judicial ruling. It makes me laugh.

This reminds me of when I was called to Jury duty a couple of years ago and undergoing analysis to serve on a jury, of which I did not want to do, a case of prostitution and arrest by a police officer in a sting, I thought it only right to let the court know I had been married to a cop for 25 years, had other relatives on police forces, and often had crime scenarios going through my head for my writing (I was working on a detective novel at that exact time), and that I was also intuitive. Well, that did not go over well with the judge as he said to me, something to this effect, “I am intuitive, also, and have gut feelings, but for 25 years I have listened from the bench to evidence presented.” He did not dismiss me but the defense attorney did soon after.

It seems silly that someone cannot be fair and equitable while at the same time being a compassionate and empathic person.

This past weekend on C-Span President Obama said in response to his statement about empathy and a Supreme Court pick, "I said earlier that I thought empathy was an important quality and I continue to believe that. You have to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you.”

He continued, "But you have to be able to stand in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living.”

"So, in all these cases what I want is not just ivory tower learning. I want somebody who has the intellectual fire power, but also a little bit of a common touch and has a practical sense of how the world works."

Good for you, Obama. It appears President Obama’s pick of Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a good one. She has a solid background of judicial experience, and has been through Senate confirmation twice in the past, an appointment under Bush Senior and another under President Clinton.

Makes me wonder about these politicians, especially the males, who seem to feel that empathy equates only with emotional...and you know how women are....they get emotional ...they cry...oh goodness... oh goodness....

Here is an example of comments of two political males from an article from Inside Politics Daily by Jill Lawrence:
‘“Empathy,’ conservative columnist George Will said Sunday on ABC's This Week, ‘can be a judicial defect.’ Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., meanwhile, fretted on Fox News Sunday that a judge with empathy would decide cases ‘not based upon the law or the merits, but rather upon his or her emotions or feelings.’"

What a joke. Are some people envious because they don’t have the experience and expertise to be a Supreme Court Judge, and do they really think a woman cannot do an excellent job. Come on men...grow up.

It is so refreshing to have a thinking President who lives in reality.



John Hayes said...

The Republican rhetoric surrounding Judge Sotomayor's appointment has been appalling, but a statement that a judge can't afford empathy is just patently ridiculous. Thanks for this post.

Linda Pendleton said...

Yes, John, it's too bad that people have to play politics in this way.