Don’t Judge Me, I’m Human

I recently read an article in the New York Times discussing how Florida’s Judicial Ethics Committee “set limits on judicial behavior online”. It describes how judges are no longer allowed to “friend” lawyers in the event that both may work together on future cases and special privileges may be given on account of their “friendship”. As the article goes through the pros/cons of this ethical stance, it made me think about the roles and responsibilities of a judge in general.

Judges are supposed to follow the letter of the law, forgoing their personal biases and diverse backgrounds in an effort to make each case before them “equal”. But how is this possible? We are human, after all.

This past year Judge Sonya Sotomayor was nominated and appointed to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor, and the Obama administration, received criticism, mainly from Conservatives, about previous statements made by Sotomayor. In one of her speeches, Sotomayor said “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”.

This statement sparked great controversy for Sotomayor and, although she admits it was a poor choice of words, she praises her personal background and alleged that her diverse experience helped her be a greater judge.

Ideally, a judge would be impartial and logical. If we (of course we’re talking about a hypothetical and ideal situation here) replaced judges with robots, programmed with every historical case known to man and the ability to cast judgements, would we prefer its impartiality to a judge that may potentially have something against you? Would you take the chance and hope that the judge’s “humanness” helps you or would you trust that the logic of a computer using strictly facts of a case?