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Alberto Gonzales: Obama Should Consider Race, Gender In Supreme Court Pick

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Alberto Gonzales, the former attorney general, says that President Obama ought to consider gender and race -- in addition to judicial philosophy and competence -- when making his pick for the Supreme Court.

"I think it's probably wise for a President to take into account certain political factors, considerations in making a Supreme Court appointment," Gonzales said in an interview with NPR. "Every President has done it, I think it's perfectly appropriate, and in this particular case I think it would be appropriate for President Obama to, once he decides a particular person again meets his tests for judicial philosophy and professional excellence, to take into account whether or not a person, gender, ethnicity, how that would effect the work of the Court going forward."

Asked specifically about the prospect of choosing a Hispanic justice, Gonzales said, "Such an appointment would send a very powerful message that the [inaudible] opportunity in this country and while no ethnicity or gender group is deserving of representation on our courts, it does send a message to America about the opportunity that is available in this country. For that reason I think that a President is wise to take that into consideration in making a decision."

Many have speculated that Obama may nominate an Hispanic female -- appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor. A Gallup poll released today found a majority of Americans do not think it's important that the president selects a woman or ethnic minority for the court.

Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Martin: Let's turn to the question of the nomination, how much of a priority in your view should President Obama place on questions of race, gender or ethnicity. Particularly given that there are many people asking him, suggesting that he should be the person to suggest the first Latino Justice.

Gonzales: Well I think that the questions about race and gender are certainly considerations that any President should take into account but, in my judgment they're secondary to the evaluation as to the person's judicial philosophy, and their professional excellence. Once a potential nominee meets those two tests for a President, not only do I think it's appropriate, I think it's probably wise for a President to take into account certain political factors, considerations in making a Supreme Court appointment. Every President has done it, I think it's perfectly appropriate, and in this particular case I think it would be appropriate for President Obama to, once he decides a particular person again meets his tests for judicial philosophy and professional excellence, to take into account whether or not a person, gender, ethnicity, how that would effect the work of the Court going forward.

Martin: Why does that matter, there was some talk at one point, there was intense speculation of your becoming the first Latino Justice, why does that matter?

Gonzales: I think something like that would be historic, now clearly there is no such thing as a black justice, Hispanic justice, Asian justice, female justice, and the outcome of the case should not depend on the gender, ethnicity of a judge any more than it should depend on the gender, ethnicity of a prosecutor or a defendant quite frankly. But such an appointment would send a very powerful message that the [inaudible] opportunity in this country and while no ethnicity or gender group is deserving of representation on our courts, it does send a message to America about the opportunity that is available in this country. For that reason I think that a President is wise to take that into consideration in making a decision.


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