Justice Kennedy On Choosing Cases, ‘Empathy,’ And Diversity

Q: President Obama has said that judges should possess “empathy,” and that in the toughest cases, “the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge’s heart.” Do you agree?

A: Sometimes people are cautious about that. You see the poor person hurt and the defendant is rich so you think maybe they should have the money. And if that’s how the word “empathy” plays out in your mind then there is a problem with it. But I sometimes ask my grandkids, what do you think are in all those books that are on my walls? Those are cases. Those are stories about real people, and their hopes and their aspirations, their disappointments, their mistakes. Real people are going to be bound by what you do.