In the News
Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Nominee
If confirmed, she will be the third woman and first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court
President Obama has chosen Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the Supreme Court. The 54-year-old, who is now a Judge of the United States Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit, would be, if confirmed, the third woman and the first Hispanic to sit on the bench of America’s highest court.
The President made his decision over the Memorial Day weekend and called Judge Sotomayor on Monday evening. He also called the three runners-up – Judge Diane P. Wood of Chicago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor General Elena Kagan – to tell them of his choice.
Judge Sotomayor was born in the Bronx in New York City and has a humble background. She was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 8. Her father, a factory worker, died a year later. Her mother, a nurse at a methadone clinic, raised her daughter and a younger son on a modest salary.
She graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude in 1976 and graduated from Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She spent five years as a prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney’s office before entering private practice. She was named a district judge by President George H.W. Bush.
As a judge, she issued an injunction that ended the baseball strike of nearly eight months in 1995. Her most recent high-profile case involved New Haven’s decision to toss out tests used to evaluate candidates for promotion in the fire department because there were no minority candidates at the top of the list. She was part of a panel that rejected the challenge brought by white firefighters who scored high but were denied promotion; the case is now before the Supreme Court.
Conservatives have already criticized her appointment and say that she has a “hard-left” record. Others complain that she is “prickly” and “a bully who abuses lawyers.” But Robyn Kar, who clerked for Sotomayor from 1998 to 1999, described her as a “warm, extraordinarily kind and caring person.” He told CNN, “She has an amazing story, but she’s also just an amazing person,” he said, adding that she has a knack for getting to know those around her. “She was the judge who, in the courthouse for example, knew all of the doormen, knew the cafeteria workers, who knew the janitors – she didn’t just know all of the other judges and the politicians. She really went out of her way to get to know everyone and was well loved by everyone.”
Although conservatives will be studying her record and are getting for a fight, most observers think she will be confirmed to the Supreme Court. However, some worry, she is very “feisty,” and her own personality could come into play during the confirmation hearings. About her judicial views, Judge Sonia Sotomayor said during a previous nomination hearing, “I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should honor to it.”
But she has also said, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”