President Obama made history today by nominating the first Hispanic to the United States Supreme Court. Her name is Sonia Sotomayor, a Judge who sits 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, the Judge would be the first person of Puerto Rican (she calls herself a Nuyorican which is a blending of the terms “New York” and “Puerto Rican”) heritage to serve on the high court.
In nominating Sotomayor, President 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.” Judge Sotomayor loved Nancy Drew mysteries as a child and yearned to be a police detective. But a doctor who diagnosed her childhood diabetes suggested that would be difficult. She traded her admiration of Nancy Drew for an allegiance to Perry Mason — she became a huge fan of TV’s Perry Mason and decided to become a lawyer.
Unless there is a scandalous revelation about Sotomayor, she is expected to be confirmed. Conservative will without a doubt make a fuss about the nomination of a Hispanic woman and further alienate Hispanics. Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network said, “Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written. She thinks that judges should dictate policy, and that one’s sex, race, and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench.”
Judge Sotomayor is the infamous Judge that ended the 1995 Major League Baseball strike. She ruled against the baseball team owners and in favor of the ballplayers, a decision that ended a lengthy strike and resumed play. At age 54, Judge Sotomayor would be the second-youngest member of the court, after Chief Justice John Roberts, thus potentially setting up decades of clashes between competing views of the Constitution and 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 under the great Robert Morgenthau and as a judge on the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York from 1998 to present. Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing in the Senate is expected to begin in approximately two months and her record will no doubt endure microscopic scrutiny.
Judge Sotomayor’s was born in the South Bronx to Puerto Rican parents; she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8. Her father died when she was 9, and she and her brother were raised by their mother, a nurse, in a housing project near Yankee Stadium.
She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. After law school, she prosecuted violent criminals in the District Attorney’s Office in New York from 1979 to 1984. She then worked for eight years in private practice representing international corporations and was nominated by President George H.W. Bush to a federal judgeship.
She was later nominated by President Clinton to her current post on the appeals court. She was confirmed in 1998 by a vote of 67 to 29 to 2.