May 26, 2009
Sotomayor or Cardozo: Supreme Court’s first Hispanic?
There have been two major bits of news in the legal world today. One is straightforward but far from over: the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8. But the other, that Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s first pick for the U.S. Supreme Court will be the first Latino to join the nation’s highest court, is less clear. All that depends on just how we should classify Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, a Sephardic Jew appointed to the Supreme Court by President Hoover.
Cardozo’s direct lineage was from the Iberian Peninsula, and though AP style is not to identify Spaniards and the Portuguese as Latinos, Cardozo was Hispanic.
Eugene Volokh, the UCLA law professor and prolific blogger who clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, sifts the wheat from the chaff with an on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand argument. Volokh concludes:
Indeed, Jewish identity is a complicated animal. So too is Latino identity. Put them together and, well, you’re going to have a tough time reaching consensus.