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Justice Sonia Sotomayor reflected on the turbulent times the country’s facing this election season, and the jarringly vacant seat next to her on the Supreme Court.
While Sotomayor said conservative stalwart Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February was like “losing a member of my family,” she also bluntly addressed their deep disagreements.
“There are things he’s said on the bench where if I had a baseball bat, I might have used it,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported she said.
Sotomayor used her clashes with conservative members of the Court as a lesson for dealing with conflict that the whole country could heed.
“If we’ve lost anything, it’s remembering that differences don’t stand, necessarily, on ill will,” she said. “If you keep that in mind, you can resolve almost any issue, because you can find that common ground to interact with each other.”
As for who the ninth justice might become, Senate Republicans in office right now have made it clear they do not want to vote on any choice President Barack Obama or a potential President Hillary Clinton would make.
But Sotomayor emphasized how challenging it can be to rule on contentious cases with only eight justices. If they tie – like they did for Obama’s executive order on immigration in June – the lower court’s ruling stands, rendering their opinion virtually useless.
“We try to come to decision-making as best as we can,” Minnesota Public Radio reported she said. “Where we can find a very, very narrow way of deciding a case, we use it. … It’s much more difficult for us to do our job if we are not what we’re intended to be – a court of nine.”
Trump has published a list of 21 people he would consider nominating if he became president. Clinton hasn’t issued a specific list.
While not calling out the candidates by name or referencing specific issues swirling around this presidential election, Sotomayor did make a point of denouncing the xenophobia that’s gripping the nation.
“We better get to know each other better. Because if we don’t figure out how to live together, we’re going to continue in the kind of warfare, regional or otherwise, that we’re involved in,” Sotomayor said to cheers of the crowd, according to the Star Tribune. “It really behooves us to figure out another way to do things.”
She added that children in particular should be taught that American citizens should weigh the evidence before making decisions about how they vote or who they support.
“They should be teaching themselves how to think about that choice starting now,” she said. “Because as they think about it they’ll help you think about it and they’ll help other people think about it more, too.”