Sotomayor Quits Women’s Club

Just when you think Washington couldn’t get any sillier, Sonia Sotomayor has resigned from the Belizean Grove women’s group after criticism that it was for women only.

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor resigned Friday from an elite all-women’s club after Republicans questioned her participation in it. Sotomayor said she resigned from the Belizean Grove to prevent the issue from becoming a distraction in her confirmation hearings.

In a letter to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the federal appeals court judge said she is convinced that the club does not practice “invidious discrimination” and that her membership in it did not violate judicial ethics.  But she said she didn’t want questions about it to “distract anyone from my qualifications and record.”

Federal judges are bound by a code that says they shouldn’t join any organization that discriminates by race, sex, religion or nationality.

The Belizean Grove bills itself as women’s answer to the 130-year-old all-male Bohemian Club in California. The club owns a 2,500-acre camping area in northern California called the Grove. Chief Justice Earl Warren belonged to the Bohemian Club beginning in the 1940s, before he joined the court and long before the federal judiciary adopted a code of conduct.

“The Belizean Grove is a constellation of influential women who are key decision makers in the profit, non-profit and social sectors; who build long term mutually beneficial relationships in order to both take charge of their own destinies and help others to do the same,” the group says on its Web site. There are about 115 members, the club says.

Earlier in the week, Sotomayor defended her participation in the group, telling senators that it involves men in some of its events and that she was unaware of any man who had tried to become a member.

“Stephen Colbert,” the humorous character played comedian Stephen Colbert, submitted his application to join on his show the other night.  I’m unfamiliar with the club’s application process but would guess something more formal is required.

There is a certain rough justice that the left is starting to get caught up in this sort of nonsense, since they started us down this path.  As the report notes, Anthony Kennedy had to quit the Olympic Club in 1987 for similar reasons. But Belizean Grove, Olympic Club, Bohemian Club and the like are social clubs for people of a certain ilk, not hate groups. They serve a valuable social purpose, providing members a place to relax and network in an environment where they don’t have to be constantly on guard.

Men’s clubs have been all but destroyed after successful lawsuits alleging that they were primarily business networking organizations and that excluding women was harmful to their career prospects.  There was something to that argument.  But forcing the clubs to go co-ed changed their character, robbing them of much of their old social release function.  For a variety of factors — that surely being one — the clubs are having trouble recruiting new members and are slowly dying off.

Belizean Grove is an anachronism.  Women have been governors, Supreme Court justices, cabinet secretaries, vice presidential nominees, serious presidential candidates, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and so forth long enough now that it’s taken as a given that sex isn’t a barrier to success in those positions.  Still, it’s hard to see any harm to elite women getting together in a setting without men to network, commiserate, and let loose.   Once she’s confirmed to the Supreme Court, there won’t be many opportunities for Sotomayor to do that, anyway, and taking away this release valve will do more harm than good.

As an aside, I’ve never understood what resigning one’s membership after having been nominated to some high office is supposed to accomplish.  If there were something wrong with being in the club, how would that mitigated by resigning for political convenience?  Sotomayor is an appelate court judge about to turn 55 years old; membership is hardly some youthful indiscretion.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Law and the Courts, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DL says:

    “…take charge of their own destinies and help others to do the same…”

    This must be the newest Christianity, as “give it up to God” and humility, get thrown under the femi-bus?

  2. odograph says:

    As an aside, I’ve never understood what resigning one’s membership after having been nominated to some high office is supposed to accomplish. If there were something wrong with being in the club, how would that mitigated by resigning for political convenience? Sotomayor is an appelate court judge about to turn 55 years old; membership is hardly some youthful indiscretion.

    Obviously they won’t have a Supereme Court Jutice in their membership.

    My early morning brain isn’t putting together why some think this is important (other than as you say that it is the standard American political play book), but quitting now means that only non-supreme Sotomayor was a memeber.

  3. G.A.Phillips says:

    This must be the newest Christianity

    No it would be more like the newest evolutionism….

    I used to be a racist and a sexist but I evolved through selection…….

  4. It is all part of the hypocrisy. Imagine the ‘fierce moral outrage’ on the left and in the media (but I repeat myself) if W. had nominated so many people to serve under him who couldn’t be bothered to obey the tax laws. I suspect that all those opinion writers who castigated Kennedy will now be silent when their sides ox is gored.

    Personally, I don’t find a problem with her being in a gender specific organization.

  5. Matt says:

    Still, it’s hard to see any harm to elite women getting together in a setting without men to network, commiserate, and let loose.

    I would think the harm is fairly obvious – it provides a mechanism of social/career advancement (i.e. networking) that is closed to some because of their gender. How is that not offensive in this day and age?

  6. James Joyner says:

    I would think the harm is fairly obvious – it provides a mechanism of social/career advancement (i.e. networking) that is closed to some because of their gender. How is that not offensive in this day and age?

    So, absent membership in a club I’d never heard of until three days ago, men are shut out of career advancement? Really?