The nomination of Justice Sotomayor to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court has been heralded in many circles. If confirmed, it is said that she will be the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court. That is, unless you discount (or count) Justice Benjamin Cardozo.
Justice Cardozo, who served on the Court from 1932 to 1939, traced his heritage as Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, and considered himself of Portuguese descent. There are those who consider the Portuguese as Hispanic, and there are those who do not. So, as we lawyers say, perhaps the verdict isn’t in yet.
But, while that debate rages on, one thing is clear. If confirmed, Justice Sotomayor will definitely be the sixth Catholic to serve on the high court.
Although, I still can’t figure out why any of that matters.
Let me leave you with this quote from Harvard Law Professor, Andrew Kaufman, Cardozo biographer,
So far as I know whether one was “Hispanic” was not an issue for Cardozo in his day. I don’t remember ever having run across the term in contemporary relevant writing.[emphasis supplied]
Two questions come to mind. First, there really was a time in this country when ethnicity didn’t make headlines, just qualifications? And, second, would Justice Cardozo consider much of what the press is writing about Justice Sotomayor irrelevant?
Added by Steve: Since she is Catholic, I’m wondering why I’m not seeing many pro-choice/abortion activists asking Sotomayor the Roe v. Wade question. It certainly seemed to be a very big deal with Scalia. Just asking…