Saturday, May 30, 2009

Justice v. Empathy


This is the traditional image of justice which you can see in front of most court buildings. The Greek Goddess Themis is blindfolded so her judgment will not be biased.
Judge Sotomayor, who has been nominated to the Supreme Court by President Obama, wants to replace this traditional notion of justice with 'empathy'. In this account, Lady Justice should take off her blinfold and render an openly biased judgment. And who should Lady Justice be biased in favor of? This is where it gets tricky becasue her empathy turns out to be selective. For example, in Ricci v. DeStefano a group of white firefighters were denied promotion despite having made the requisite score on their exams. The reason? Judge Sotomayor, along with the two other Federal Judges, said it was because a group of black firefights had not been able to make an equivalent score and be promoted also.
Who deserves our empathy in this case? It seems like emotional appeals could be made on both sides. Which is why Lady Justice may be better off keeping her blindfold on.

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