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Sotomayor hearings: Sen. Cardin recalls an era of legalized prejudice

July 13, 2009 |  9:08 am

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Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), speaking very quickly as if the clock were running down, was the only senator this morning to put a deeply personal spin on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination.

He spoke of his childhood in Baltimore, and what it was like to grow up Jewish in an era of rampant prejudice. “I remember with great sadness that discrimination was not only condoned but actively encouraged,” he said -- against blacks, Jews and others.

He recalled the moment in 1954 when the Supreme Court issued its landmark Brown vs. Board of Education, which outlawed the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

“Suddenly my universe and my community were changed forever,” Cardin said. He recalled that the lawyer who argued that case for the plaintiffs was none other than future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the court’s first African-American member, who was denied admission to the University of Maryland law school “due to the color of his skin.”

Cardin returned to Sotomayor’s impressive biography, and quoting Marshall, added, “None of us got to where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.”

Shortly after Cardin finished, the committee took a 10-minute break.

-- Robin Abcarian

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US Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor listens to members of the Judiciary Committee during her Senate confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 13, 2009. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP/ Getty Images)

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