First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice

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I have breaking news on the next Supreme Court nomination. Very few people seem to have access to the information, so I think it is indeed breaking news. Are you ready? George W. Bush will not be appointing the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

How do I know this? Well, it's not for the reasons you might expect. After all, I do not know if Bush will nominate Alberto Gonzales, Samuel Alito, Emilio Garza, Consuelo Callhan, or Miguel Estrada. He may well nominate one of them, as far as the information I possess has allowed me to foresee. But nominating one of those Hispanic people will not make him the first president to nominate a Hispanic justice, contrary to the claims of almost every media outlet that talks about the possibility of a Hispanic justice. That honor belongs to Herbert Hoover, who appointed Benjamin Cardozo to the Supreme Court in 1932. Cardozo served until 1938. Bush may in fact nominate the second Hispanic to the Supreme Court, but it's simply false that no justice on the court so far has been Hispanic. It's amazing that people are still reporting it, but no one seems to be calling them on this.

Update: Samuel Alito is not Hispanic. I accidentally included him instead of Emilio Garza because his last name sounds Latinate. There's a reason it sounds Latinate. It's Italian. He's a first-generation Italian American. His father was born in Italy. He's not Jewish, either, as far as I've heard (for those of you finding this post by searching for that, which seems to be an amazingly high number).

6 Comments

Very interesting. My five minutes of research on the man make me hope that Bush does better, whether he chooses based on identity politics or not.

Cardozo was not Hispanic. He was Jewish. His parents changed their name when they immigrated.

The sources I could find seemed to say that he was from Portugal and before that from Spain. Being Hispanic does not exclude being Jewish, and being Jewish does not exclude being Hispanic. He wouldn't count as Latino by U.S. usage, but he'd still be Hispanic.

Cardozo was a Sephardic Jew, i.e., one of those whose ancestors lived for centuries in Spain, mostly kept a separate ethnic and religious identity, and were mostly expelled during the Inquisition. Despite a Hispanic-sounding name, I don't think Justice Cardozo could be considered ethnically Hispanic.

Thanks for making the correction that Bush isn't the "first" President to nominate a Hispanic judge to fill the Supreme Court. However, as you pointed out that occurance was over 70 years ago - you might as well call
this the first for this century! Isn't it about time? Especially
when Latinos are the largest growing demographic in the United States.
We should have a judicial system that properly represents the people
it serves (assuming the candidate is qualified - which isn't really the case as we saw with Miers).

Maybe we didn't see that Miers is qualified, but that doesn't amount to seeing that she's not qualified.

It's only the second pick overall this century, so being the fist Hispanic pick of this century amounts to very little. Being the second overall seems to me to count for much more.

I agree that it would be a good thing to get more Hispanic judges on the bench. There are other underrepresented groups as well, and it would be good to consider very strongly whether he should favor a candidate of any such groups. He did try to go for another woman last time around. These things would be good results, and I would recommend to presidents choosing judges that they consider this sort of thing as an important factor. I see no absolute rule, though, and I think a president needs to consider a number of factors. One is qualifications, and these things are another issue. What sort of general judicial philosophy they have is another.

There are also political realities, though. The Hispanic people whose names came up are, in most cases, less confirmable. Some of them are more conservative than Alito or at least have that appearance. Gonzales appears to the left and right to be too extreme on the other end (in both cases irrationally, but that's the perception). Some of them are too unknown in the post-Miers climate to be an easy confirmation. Bush went with Alito because he knows he's the sort of judge he wants in there and because he satisfies as much of the things he needs politically as possible. At the tail end of what everyone is calling the worst week for any president since Nixon, he needs to keep such things in mind.

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