Yes – If Confirmed, Judge Sonia Sotomayor WILL BE the First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice

Judge Sonia Sotomayor Since the President yesterday announced that Judge Sonia Sotomayor was his choice as the next Supreme Court Justice, there has been all kinds of controversy as to whether she will be the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. It seems that the name of Justice Benjamin Cardozo, who served on the court from 1932-1938, keeps coming up as possibly being the first Hispanic to serve. His family was presumably from Portugal – and some have mistakenly claimed that makes him Hispanic. Wrong…

After reading numerous columns on the subject, I settled on that of Robert Schlesinger of U.S. News and World Report, as being the best researched and generally interesting. Following is a teaser from his column.

It’s been widely reported that Judge Sonia Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court, though a few people (including some TV commentators) have wondered whether Justice Benjamin Cardozo (on the court from 1932-1938) should not in fact be counted as such.

The answer seems to be that Sotomayor would in fact be the first Hispanic, but it also points up the problem inherent in the term Hispanic.

Cardozo, Josh Marshall reports, was of Portuguese ancestry (Cardozo biographer Andrew Kaufman says that Cardozo “family legend” has them coming from Portugal, but without “firm documentation about the particulars”). Which brings us to the critical question: What sort of ancestry qualifies as Hispanic? There are three strikes against the Cardozo-as-Hispanic thesis, all having to do with the fact that Portuguese natives speak … Portuguese (rather than Spanish).

Read Schlesinger’s full column in the May 26, 2009 Edition of the U.S. News Website.

Author: Leland Meitzler

Leland K. Meitzler founded Heritage Quest in 1985, and has worked as Managing Editor of both Heritage Quest Magazine and The Genealogical Helper. He currently operates Family Roots Publishing Company (www.FamilyRootsPublishing.com), writes daily at GenealogyBlog.com, writes the weekly Genealogy Newsline, conducts the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour to the Family History Library, and speaks nationally, having given over 2000 lectures since 1983.

4 thoughts on “Yes – If Confirmed, Judge Sonia Sotomayor WILL BE the First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice”

  1. Benjamin Cardozo was Hispanic by the old denition of the term, which refers to people from Hispania, the old Roman name for the
    Iberian peninsula which is now Spain and Portugal. Currently, the
    term “Hispanic” is a racial classification that refers to non-white
    people of Latin American origin. By that definition, Cardozo was just another white make.

  2. hispanic ia not today a racial classification that refers to non-white people of latin american origin. It is istead people of Latin American origin regardless of race. In Latin America, like in the United States, you many races. In addition, you have people that throughout the years racially mixed, whites with indians or with blacks, etc.

  3. hispanics in the United States are not consider today a racial classification that refers to non-white people of latin american origin. It is istead people of Latin American origin regardless of race. In Latin America, like in the United States, you many races, including whites, blacks, indians, jews,etc.. In addition, you have people of different races that throughout the years mixed with other races. These include, Mestizo (white and indian) and mulatos (white and black).

  4. Benjamin Cardozo was a Portuguese Jew(very rare by the way). Cardozo is a Portuguese name. How he is even being considered Hispanic, is beyond me. Portugal and Spain are two totally different countries in every aspect(language, culture,cuisine, etc…). The only thing these two countries have in common, are that of being neighbors. France also neighbors Spain and i doubt people are confusing the French of being Hispanics. Such ignorance! I am Portuguese/American, and would be furious if someone confused me with being Hispanic.

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