Joanne Bamberger is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance writer and commentator. She's also a recovering lawyer who blogs as PunditMom.
"Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see."
That's what Supreme Court nominee and federal court Judge Sonia Sotomayor has said in the past about how individual experience comes into play when deciding cases and looking at the law.
Many conservatives are afraid of that approach and are going to try to convince Americans that only a judge who makes decisions about the facts of a case in a vacuum should be appointed to the Supreme Court.
But which facts? How do we know which ones are the important ones in any case? The right ones? The ones that will sway a case from one outcome to another? As someone who practiced law for about 15 years, I know that sometimes those questions are easier than others.
You can't decide a case without looking at all the facts, even the ones that don't seem important at first blush. I learned that the hard way as a young lawyer. That's where digging a little deeper and calling on the things we've learned in life help us out as lawyers in a way that all those law school classes don't.
At the risk of being called too flip in this analogy, I'd like to invoke my favorite movie lawyer, Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. (If you're short on time, pick up the video at about 4:30).