Sen. John Cornyn pressed Judge Sonia Sotomayor this morning on whether she could agree with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s view, as the senator put it, that “the best way to stop discriminating based on race is to stop discriminating based on race.”
The Texas Republican was referring to Chief Justice Roberts’s majority opinion in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, the 2007 decision in which the Supreme Court sharply curtailed the ways school districts could permissibly use race in assigning students to schools. The chief justice’s precise wording in his opinion was this: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Cornyn asked the question in regard to the much-discussed New Haven firefighters case, Ricci v. DeStefano.
Sotomayor’s responded to the Roberts quote by saying, “The best way to live in our society is to follow the command of the Constitution, provide equal opportunity for all. And I follow what the Constitution says, that is, how the law should be structured and how it should be applied to whatever individual circumstances come before the court.”
When pressed by Cornyn on whether she agreed with the chief justice’s statement or not, Sotomayor said that expressing an opinion on that might suggest she agreed with the underlying decision in Parents Involved.
“And that was a very recent case,” she said.
“I understand that you might not want to comment on what Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in an opinion, even though I don’t think he was speaking of a specific case but rather an approach to the law which would treat us all as individuals with equal dignity and equal rights,” Cornyn said."But let me ask you whether you agree with Martin Luther King when he said he dreamed of a day when his children would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Do you agree with that?”
I think every American agrees with that,” Sotomayor said. To which Sen. Cornyn replied, “Amen.”
A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.