Don't need no empathy:
It appears that "empathy" is the word of the week, with it being seen by liberals as a good thing for SC nominee Sotomayer to have, while conservatives see it as problematical. But conservatives have their own "empathy" gig as Digby points out
Empathy is overrated, or rather, it should be excluded as much as possible from the realm of law.
Many states have, for instance, sentencing procedures where the victims of a crime are allowed to talk about how they were affected. The result is that the sentencing agent (judge or jury) is affected by the empathy the victims are able to elicit. That's ridiculously unfair. If a grouch with no friends is murdered, should the criminal have a lesser sentence than the murderer of someone with an agreeable personality and a sterling reputation?
Some people would say, "yes", and be decidedly in favor of such fine-tuning of the judicial system. They'd say that there is a real difference in value of persons, measured in part by the "empathy" meter, and is to be applied whenever appropriate in a court of law.
I don't like that. I prefer to have all people treated the same, and if there is to be any special consideration (say, for those with a hardscrabble upbringing) to have it explicitly enshrined in the law
. At least that way the "empathy" is objectively written down and not subject to the vagaries of this-or-that match-up between defendant and judge.
ALSO: We've been treated to a lot of this
kind of talk:
X's personal life story is one of great accomplishments and a source of inspiration.
Who are we talking about? Alito? Sotomayer? Could be both. And it is!
Does a personal life story matter when assessing a potential justice? The empirical evidence says it doesn't. But in this wacky country, still addicted to a Romantic view of the world (see Noonan et al.) you get this irrelevant talk that has no purpose other than to allow people of limited knowledge or intelligence weigh in on topics beyond their comprehension.