Timing is Right for Hispanic Supreme Court Pick

There's been quite a bit in the news recently about anti-Latino discrimination.

In one EEOC case out of Miami, Nordstrom agreed to a settlement of $292,500 because of a store manager's blatant prejudice.

The manager was heard to say  that she  "hated Hispanics" and that Hispanics were "lazy and ignorant."  Hispanic workers were also chastised for speaking to each other in Spanish.

The same store manager didn't like African American employees either and was known to make remarks like "I don't like Blacks" and "you're Black, you stink".

According to the EEOC:  

The employees complained to Nordstrom about the harassment, but the harassment did not stop. The . . . manager retaliated against those who complained by continuing the racially offensive comments, unfairly berating employees and citing them for alleged performance problems.

In a different  EEOC case out of Los Angeles, Skilled Healthcare Group agreed to pay $450,000 to a class of Hispanic employees who were subjected to harassment and discrimination at its nursing homes and assisted living facilities in California and Texas.

In that case, the EEOC alleged that workers were

  • prohibited from speaking Spanish to Spanish speaking residents
  • disciplined for speaking Spanish n the parking lot while on breaks
  • given less desirable work than non-Hispanic counterparts paid less and promoted less often

In other news, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued an alarming report about anti-Latino discrimination in the South

The report — Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South — details the experiences of Latino immigrants who face increasing hostility as they fill low-wage jobs in Southern states that had few Latino residents until recent years.

According to the report, Latino workers are:

  • subjected to widespread hostility, discrimination and exploitation.
  • consistently cheated out of their pay
  • 80% more likely to die on the job than native-born workers

The discrimination against Latina women in the workplace was particularly disturbing.. For example, 77% of the Hispanic women interviewed said sexual harassment was a major workplace problem.

 A recurring theme is the male supervisor using immigration status as leverage to coerce sexual favors from female employees. These women often have little or no idea about sexual harassment laws and have nowhere to turn.

Sadly, for a variety of reasons discussed in the report including language barriers and legal status, most victims do not seek legal recourse even though Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment as well as race and national origin discrimination regardless of immigration status according to most courts.

 With all of these recent stories about discrimination targeted against Latinos,  it's good news that President Obama is strongly considering a Hispanic woman for Supreme Court Justice.

After all, though Hispanics make up 15% of the population, less than 4% of federal judges are of Hispanic descent and not one has served on the nation’s highest court.

According to Kara Hadge in Slate on Saturday

Appointing a Supreme Court justice gives the president a chance to leave a lasting impact on the judicial system, and Obama is under pressure to choose someone who is not only qualified but also symbolic.

There is a general consensus among the coverage that Obama could consider Sonia Sotomayor, a New York federal appeals court justice who would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice...

The Daily Beast called Judge Sotomayor a "frontrunner. " On Meet the Press Sunday morning, I couldn't help but notice Senator Arlen Specter's mention of a Hispanic female judge as a consideration for Justice Souter's spot.

Frankly, I'm too ignorant about Judge Sotomayor to render an educated opinion as to whether she's  the best choice for the seat. Her credentials are certainly impressive.

But I don't yet know her views on Constitutional interpretation or her positions on  the many issues I care deeply about -- civil rights, pro-choice, civil liberties, to name a few, so I'm not ready to jump on the Sotomayer bandwagon.

The National Journal had this to say about Judge Sotomayor last year, and it looks promising:

One of the nation's most prominent Hispanic judges, she is liberal and very smart. Born to a Puerto Rican family and raised in a Bronx housing project, she won highest honors at Princeton and distinction at Yale Law School. She was an assistant district attorney and commercial litigator before becoming a federal district judge and, in 1998, an appellate court judge.

According to the Wall Street Journal President Obama has been quoted to say  that he would seek a nominee with:

a record of excellence and integrity...who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book.

The President also stated his preference for someone attuned to the "daily realities of people's lives." I take him at his word.

The bottom line is that more diversity on the United States Supreme Court is an imperative. A Hispanic female for the United States Supreme Court would be an exciting and historic pick.

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