“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
The 2001 remarks from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor caused something of a stir when they surfaced just before President Barack Obama nominated her to sit on the high court eight years later. Sotomayor challenged the notion that law is completely objective and that judges make decisions based solely on their knowledge of the law, not their own life experiences.
That notion will be explored at this year’s Jewish Law Day, being billed as “A Conversation on Laws, Ethics and Lessons of Life.” It will focus on the experiences of the guest speaker, Judge Ilana Kara Diamond Rovner, a Holocaust survivor and a Jewish woman, and how those perspectives have informed and influenced her legal career.
Judge Anne Lazarus, a state Superior Court judge and the president of the Louis D. Brandeis Law Society Foundation, the charitable arm of the organization that sponsors Jewish Law Day, thinks Sotomayor got it exactly right.
All judges bring “their personal biases, prejudices and upbringing to the court with them; the worst of our judges don’t know that they have biases to worry about,” she said.
Rovner is a federal appellate court judge based in Chicago. Born in Latvia in 1938, her family left Europe when she was still an infant and she was raised in Philadelphia.
The 31st annual Jewish Law Day, which is dedicated to former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who died last year, will be held on June 3 at 5 p.m., at the Jewish Community Services Building in Center City.
The program is free and open to the community. Attorneys can receive continuing legal education credit.
For more information, go to brandeislawsociety.org.