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The idea of empathy in a judge doesn't fit with blind justice

"Racist" judge is guilty of humanity | June 6, Sue Carlton column

Empathy doesn't fit with blind justice

In this column, Sue Carlton demonstrates just how far out on a metaphorical limb judicial empathy fans are willing to go to make their point. Citing a black judge who sought to identify with young wrongdoers of his own race, she attempts to justify Judge Sonia Sotomayor's assertion "that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white man who hasn't lived that life."

According to Carlton, her black judge was motivated to leverage his own accomplishment to provide a positive inspiration to the young members of his own race who were brought before him. Sotomayor on the other hand insists that her race and gender make her a better qualified judge than a white male. There's a world of difference between the two. Imagine the uproar if John Roberts, during his confirmation, had claimed that he was better qualified than a Latino because he is white. While it's possible that Sotomayor is not a racist or a sexist, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that her statement is.

Moreover, the notion of empathy in the courts is inimical to the very foundation of our justice system. Lady Justice is usually depicted with a blindfold. This symbolizes the court's fundamental indifference to the social position, gender or race of the people brought before it.

Our constitutional republic applies Carlton's humanity in the legislative lawmaking process where "humanity" is defined by the consensus of the electorate. This is the process that ended slavery, gave women the right to vote, enacted child labor laws and advanced a host of other social justice reforms that were mandated by the people, not the wisdom of the courts.

Timothy S. "Mac" McDonnell, St. Petersburg

Water shortage

The Tampa Bay area has reached its capacity

We look at a reservoir with crumbling concrete and wonder why we, as intelligent humans, can't conquer the environment. Nature provided us with natural reservoirs (aquifers), but we refuse to understand this and we developed and paved the land over. We have developed most of the Tampa Bay area and we are perplexed. You can pile 16 people in a car designed for four. It is dangerous and doesn't make sense. Why do we overtax our resources, thinking that just because we are human we can make it happen? We think we can live without water, but think we can't exist without gas. Go without water for a few days. Try it.

We need to change our thinking!

If we don't negotiate the realities of life (environmentally), eventually reality will negotiate it for us.

We have reached capacity (even for our own technology). Let's quit thinking that the Earth owes us more. What do we owe the Earth?

T.W. Funari, St. Petersburg

Odyssey claim tarnished | June 5, story

Treasure is earned

I find it interesting that the Spanish government wants to claim a treasure that it did nothing whatsoever to recover.

This treasure has been on the bottom of the ocean for more than 200 years. The Spanish government knew that it was there but never made any attempt to mount a recovery operation.

Odyssey Marine has spent millions of dollars to locate a ship, refit it for treasure recovery, spent millions of dollars to research this treasure, sail up and down the coast of Portugal in an attempt to find one sunken ship among hundreds of wrecks, then recover the treasure.

Companies like Odyssey Marine take a huge risk when they attempt to locate sunken treasure. It is extremely expensive, dangerous and time-consuming to conduct a search for a lost treasure, and the chances are that they will come up empty.

Now that Odyssey Marine has taken all the risk, done all the work and achieved success, Spain, which was not willing to take any risk at all, wants the treasure.

Sorry, but that does not compute for me. Treasure hunters are painted as no better than greedy pirates when in reality they are rugged individualists who are willing to take a huge risk for a big reward. They deserve to keep what they have worked so hard to find.

Paul Spencer, Holiday

Take child safety seriously

Over the course of the last week, our large community has seen tragic and near tragic incidents befall our most vulnerable citizens, our babies and young children. Last month in Bradenton, an 11-month-old boy nearly drowned in a bathtub when left alone by his mom only to die two days later from his injuries. Charges are pending against his mother. Tuesday in Hernando County, a 3-year-old girl drowned in her family's above-ground pool after slipping out the back of the family's trailer. Her mother had fallen asleep.

In our own backyard, a 4-month-old girl who was breast-feeding on her mother's lap in the front seat of their car was ejected when her dad ran a red light and was broadsided by a garbage truck. Miraculously, she was not critically injured after landing on the concrete. The car seat lay in the back unoccupied.

These three "accidents" were preventable. And to a large degree, predictable. When will we learn? Major media outlets in Florida recently disseminated hurricane guides in preparation for hurricane season. The guide has an essential safety checklist intended for families in the event that a tropical storm hits our coastline. This is critical information.

It's a shame we don't take the same systemic and preventive approach with our little ones when it comes to water and the highways. Pools, lakes, bathtubs and cars are where our kids, young and old, spend much of their time. We know how deadly and catastrophic a hurricane can be — so too our highways, swimming pools and bathrooms.

I just wish our community would focus as much time and attention there as on the paths of tropical storms. We already know where the path leads when car seats aren't utilized and bathtubs and swimming pools are left unsupervised.

Stephen C. Martaus, executive director, Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County, Tampa

Fla. may export felons | June 7, story

Many could be freed

A better solution than exporting felons would be to reduce our prison population. My advice would be to parole, or just plain free nonviolent drug offenders.

The cost of keeping them in prison is much greater than their risk to the public.

This would probably have to happen through a citizens' initiative since our politicians have a vested interest in a large prison population. Prisons are political "pork".

Joseph Clary, Tampa

The idea of empathy in a judge doesn't fit with blind justice 06/08/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 8, 2009 7:14pm]
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