Obama Picks First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice

By Linda Feldmann; Warren Richey | The Christian Science Monitor, May 26, 2009 | Go to article overview
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Obama Picks First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice


Linda Feldmann; Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor


President Obama made history Tuesday by nominating the first Hispanic to the US Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. If confirmed by the Senate, Judge Sotomayor would replace retiring Justice David Souter, and become the second woman to serve currently on the high court and only the third in history. Born and raised in a South Bronx housing project, she would be the first person of Puerto Rican heritage to serve on the high court. In nominating Sotomayor, Mr. Obama cited her professional achievements and compelling personal story, calling her an "inspiring woman who I am confident will make a great justice." "It doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like, or what challenges life throws your way. No dream is beyond reach in the United States of America," Obama said. In a statement in the East Room ceremony announcing her nomination, Sotomayor said, "Never in my wildest childhood imaginings ... did I ever dream that I would live this moment." Obama heads into his first Supreme Court nomination with a strong hand in the Senate, where Democrats control 59 seats out of 100, and potentially 60 when the disputed Minnesota Senate race is resolved. Barring a scandalous revelation about Sotomayor, she is expected to be confirmed. But conservatives do not intend to go down without a fight. They appear poised to use Obama's nomination of Sotomayor as a way to frame the president's governing philosophy as outside the mainstream. Sotomayor's record includes involvement in a controversial affirmative-action case involving firefighters in New Haven, Conn., that is currently before the Supreme Court. Fighting Sotomayor's nomination presents conservatives with a tricky calculation. Even if they score points on her jurisprudence, the struggling Republican Party can ill afford to alienate Hispanics and women more than it already has. In the last election, Obama won both groups by wide margins. At age 54, she would be the second-youngest member of the court, after Chief Justice John Roberts, thus potentially setting up decades of clashes between what are expected to be competing views of the Constitution on a variety of issues. Sotomayor has served on the federal bench for 16 years, as a US district court judge in New York City from 1992 to 1998 and as a judge on the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York from 1998 to present. Her record of judicial decisions is long and deep. It includes a 1995 ruling as a federal judge in the Major League Baseball strike case, and a decision as a member of a three-judge appeals-court panel that upheld a ruling throwing out a firefighter promotion test in New Haven, Conn.

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