Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sotomayor will add diversity to the Supreme Court

It has long been intuitively obvious that group decisions are usually better than individual decisions, and now psychologists are documenting the phenomenon in controlled experiments. The Supreme Court has nine members in part because it can be expected to make better decisions as a group than any Chief Justice would be expected to make alone.

I suggest that the count is likely to make better decisions if it is made up not only of legal experts, but of jurists who bring different views and experience to the court. Adding another woman to the current court (seven men and one woman) would seem likely to help. Adding a jurist who has experience as a prosecutor to a court without such experience would seem likely to help. Adding a Latina to a court that has never had a Latino member would seem likely to help. Adding a Justice who has experienced poverty to a court drawn largely from middle and upper economic classes may help. So Sonia Sotomayor may well have been right in suggesting that she would bring a diverse background to the court that would help it make better decisions more often.

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