(Oct. 21) Pundits are marveling on Friday about liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor praising the personal decency of conservative colleague Clarence Thomas , but what’s really amiss is the pundits’ own assumptions. Political views should make no difference in courts of law — or in the relations among judges.

At Roosevelt University in Chicago Thursday night, Sotomayor (for the second time in less than five months ) had the grace to note the many daily kindnesses Thomas shows not just toward his fellow justices, but to “practically everybody in our building. He knows their name, he knows the things about their life, what their family is suffering. … There’s no other justice who does that. I try, but he does it better. He cares about people.”

Leave it to the HuffPost, though, to ignore all but the final sentence of that peroration in order to focus, completely out of context, on what Sotomayor said next: “[Thomas] cares about legal issues differently than me. Clarence, who grew up very poor, believes that everyone is capable of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. I believe not everyone can reach their bootstraps.”

So the outlet wrongly made it sound as if Sotomayor were criticizing Thomas and his politics more than praising his personal character. (So did the headline of The Hill .)

If liberal outlets want to make those differences in politics central, though, then they shouldn’t ignore the nod Sotomayor gave to the ideal of a judiciary independent of politics : “Laws can make it hard for us to see the legal system as fair,” she said. “What’s fair is really a judgment of how we as a society are going to help each other. And how to share resources that are limited in as fair a way as we can. Those choices aren’t mine to make as a judge, but those are made in the laws that are passed.”

Note the italicized portion, The media doesn’t get it….. [The full column is here.]


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