According to Judge Sonia Sotomayor, biography matters. President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court believes a person’s gender, ethnic background and upbringing will inevitably affect how he or she interprets the law.
She is absolutely correct.
The jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas is inescapably informed by his personal history, both as a black man and as someone who lifted himself out of poverty. Likewise, the rulings of Antonin Scalia are informed, even if subconsciously, by his strict Catholicism. Chief Justice John Roberts grew up as the son of a Bethlehem Steel executive, an upbringing that at some level had to color his outlook on issues such as management-labor disputes.
After all, Thomas, Scalia and Roberts are human, and we do not stop being human when we don a judge’s robe. Furthermore, the law is not a mathematical construct. Two plus two always equals four no matter who adds it up, but the law is a human construct, subject to human interpretation. So it matters which human does the interpreting.