Not Guilty!


 by Karen Topakian


Lately everyone’s been talking about Perry MasonSonia Sotomayor, Al Franken, Arlen Spector….

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor started it all by saying she found inspiration in the character of Hamilton Burger, the prosecutor, who lost every case except for one against Mason.

How ironic that she would find inspiration in the loser, who repeatedly charged the wrong, often beautiful, woman with a crime she didn’t commit? Ms. Sotomayor said she admired Mr. Burger’s commitment to justice. 

I bet CBS execs would be shocked to learn that it wasn’t Mr. Mason’s zealous defense of his clients that inspired her.

And I bet Perry Mason’s creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, would have been surprised as well by Ms. Sotomayor’s response.

Mr. Gardner not only practiced trial law and wrote more than 80 novels but also devoted much of his life to “The Court of Last Resort.” A project committed to reversing the miscarriages of justice against those who were convicted due to poor representation and fabricated evidence. 

I hope she bears that in mind when she adjudicates from the highest court in the land.

(Happy Birthday Mr. Gardner who was born 120 years ago today)

The Warren Court v the Zodiac


The Warren US Supreme Court

The Warren US Supreme Court



by Karen Topakian

Astrologers believe that the position and movement of celestial bodies at the moment of birth can provide information about your personality and your destiny.


I take a slightly different approach to this multi-millennial belief system.

I believe that US Supreme decisions rendered during the year of your birth can play a profound role in determining your destiny.

Take Federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor, for instance. She and I share a common birth year. 1954. The second year of the Warren Court. 

On May 17, 1954, a few weeks before Judge Sotomayor was born, the US Supreme Court decided everyone’s favorite, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. 

This ruling clearly stated that “…segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a state solely on the basis of race… denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment — even though the physical facilities and other “tangible” factors of white and Negro schools may be equal.”

On that same day in May, the Justices decided Bolling v Sharpe “…racial segregation in the public schools of the District of Columbia is a denial to Negro children of the due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.” 

Both of those decisions, which determined that separate was inherently unequal under the U.S. Constitution, contributed substantially to Ms. Sotomayor’s educational and professional opportunities.

For example, Princeton, her undergraduate alma mater only began accepting women into this degree program in 1969, three years prior to her admission in 1972. According to Princeton’s own documents the changing social climate of the 1960s provided the impetus for admitting women as undergraduates.

This “changing social climate” can be easily traced back to the momentum spawned by these landmark court decisions, which began to dismantle the institutionalized racism and sexism present in America.

In 1954, the Warren Court continued to apply the 14th Amendment’s tenant of equal protection in Hernandez v Texas, which deemed the systematic exclusion of persons of Mexican descent from service as jury commissioners, grand jurors, and petit jurors as unconstitutional. 

This groundbreaking decision opened a whole branch of government, the court system, to those who had been denied equal access. Once more paving the way for other discriminated groups, women and people of color, to achieve equal protection.

Ms. Sotomayor’s career and nomination for the US Supreme Court could not and would not have happened without those birth year decisions made by the Warren Court.

We can only imagine what her tenure could achieve for future generations.