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As Justice Sotomayor Hits the High Court, A Defense of Empathy

Weighing and balancing perspectives with empathy is a better recipe for justice than "blindness," which can cause us to miss the glaring injustices of our legal system.

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Developing empathy is an excellent way to get beyond our limitations, whether we are "wise Latinas" or "wise white males" or wise persons of any other type. Empathy, as a natural complement to rational analysis, can help us develop a fuller and richer ability to form judgments that respect the facts and the diverse perspectives in any legal dispute.

Every Supreme Court case will not be as momentous as Brown or other cases involving human rights. But when such cases arrive (and they will), justices with a well-developed capacity for empathy will best serve the interests of justice and help our nation become a "more perfect union" in which the interests, perspectives, and concerns of all in our diverse society are brought into better balance. That is the wisdom that justices who possess empathy bring to the court.

Rick DeJesús-Rueff is the vice president of student affairs and diversity initiatives at St. John Fisher College in New York.