President Obama Chooses Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his Nominee for the Supreme Court


(Image from NYT)


In Focus: Stats

  • According to the Senate historian’s office, 28 of 158 nominations have been rejected, withdrawn or simply not acted upon since the court was founded in 1789.
  • US top court pick may lure Hispanic votes-analysts: Choice could consolidate Obama appeal with Hispanics, Opposition to Sotomayor could alienate Hispanic voters…. – Reuters, 5-26-09


The Headlines…

  • Senators to meet Obama’s nominee: Senators this week will begin to take the measure of Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. The confirmation hearing for the court’s first Hispanic nominee is not expected until July. But on Tuesday, escorted by home state Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), she will meet key players, including Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)…. – AJC, 5-31-09
  • Senators Preview Stances on Sotomayor: Senators hit the talk shows Sunday in an informal opening act to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, battling over whether she would bring a nuanced judgment seasoned by a complex life or would let her personal views trump the law. The formal hearings won’t begin for several weeks, and Republicans on Sunday suggested they wouldn’t seek to block her confirmation. But senators from both parties, and especially those from the Judiciary Committee, are already seeking to shape the debate and Ms. Sotomayor’s image…. – WSJ, 5-31-09
  • Sotomayor’s Focus on Race Issues May Be Hurdle: The selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court has opened a new battle in the fight over affirmative action and other race-conscious remedies for patterns of inequality, with each side invoking the election of the first black president in support of its cause…. – NYT, 5-29-09
  • Sotomayor’s Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament – NYT, 5-28-09
  • How, why Obama picked Sotomayor: President Barack Obama called Judge Sonia Sotomayor at 9 p.m. on Memorial Day to say she was his pick for the Supreme Court. Obama showed he was willing to pick a fight with his choice — Republicans do not consider her a “consensus” nominee and had signaled that they considered her the most liberal of the four finalists. He played smart base politics with the historic selection of a Hispanic (a first) and a woman. And he fulfilled his pledge to pick someone with a common touch by nominating someone who was raised in a Bronx housing project, and lost her father at age 9…. – Politico, 5-27-09
  • Sotomayor, a Trailblazer and a Dreamer: She was “a child with dreams,” as she once said, the little girl who learned at 8 that she had diabetes, who lost her father when she was 9, who devoured Nancy Drew books and spent Saturday nights playing bingo, marking the cards with chickpeas, in the squat red brick housing projects of the East Bronx. She was the history major and Puerto Rican student activist at Princeton who spent her first year at that bastion of the Ivy League “too intimidated to ask questions.” She was the tough-minded New York City prosecutor, and later the corporate lawyer with the dazzling international clients. She was the federal judge who “saved baseball” by siding with the players’ union during a strike…. – NYT, 5-27-09
  • Sotomayor’s take-no-guff demeanor could alter court dynamics: Judge Sonia Sotomayor can be blunt, aggressive and impatient. So get ready for another public debate, and probably some insinuations, about her judicial temperament….
    “It’s her style,” said New York -based lawyer Julia Heit , who counts herself among Sotomayor’s fans and who’s practiced in Sotomayor’s 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for three decades. “She wants answers. She wants the attorneys who appear before her to be prepared. And she’s demanding, as she well should be. “As an aside, I should say life will be easier when I don’t have to confront her.”… – McClatchy Newspapers, 5-27-09
  • Bronx bursting with pride over Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor: Local officials say the judge gives the New York City borough a new ambassador to improve its image problems…. – LAT, 5-27-09
  • No filibuster, but Sotomayor battle still loom: Republicans see little chance of blocking Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, a key GOP senator conceded Wednesday. But senators and advocacy groups are still girding for this summer’s battle — partly with an eye toward raising money and perhaps preparing for Barack Obama’s next nominee…. – AP, 5-27-09
  • Historic nomination: Hispanic Sotomayor as justice: Reaching for history, President Barack Obama on Tuesday chose federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court, championing her as a compassionate, seasoned jurist whose against-the-odds life journey affirms the American dream. Republicans who will decide whether to make a fight of her confirmation said they want thorough hearings…. – AP, 5-26-09
  • Obama Chooses Sotomayor for Supreme Court Nominee – NYT, 5-26-09
  • Sotomayor’s Rulings Are Exhaustive but Often Narrow: Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s judicial opinions are marked by diligence, depth and unflashy competence. If they are not always a pleasure to read, they are usually models of modern judicial craftsmanship, which prizes careful attention to the facts in the record and a methodical application of layers of legal principles…. – NYT, 5-26-09
  • Biased or brilliant? Scrutiny of Sotomayor begins Obama’s high-court pick is no ‘stealth candidate.’ She has made some 450 judicial decisions. What’s more, she has not been shy about expressing her opinions publicly: The nomination of federal appeals-court judge Sonia Sotomayor to a seat on the US Supreme Court sets the stage for a national debate over the appropriate role of a high-court justice and whether Judge Sotomayor is the best person for the job. But the debate may ultimately be far less aggressive than many conservative stalwarts would like. Short of a revelation of personal scandal, Sotomayor is almost certain to be confirmed with a solid Democratic majority in the Senate. And an aggressive campaign against her by Republicans could harm the party, already reeling from a poor performance last November and a decline in support among Hispanics…. – CS Monitor, 5-26-09
  • Sotomayor’s Baseball Ruling Lingers, 14 Years Later: When he introduced Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday as his nominee for the Supreme Court, President Obama cited only one of her cases to make his argument that she replace Justice David H. Souter — and it wasn’t her opinion in Ricci v. DeStefano, a race-discrimination lawsuit. Instead, it was the temporary injunction she issued to end the baseball strike in 1995. “Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball,” said Obama, who offered another paragraph of praise for her before saying she was raised “not far from Yankee Stadium.”…. – NYT, 5-26-09
  • Sotomayor would be sixth Catholic justice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor has much to distinguish her, but one element of her biography stands out in the world of those interested in religion and the public square: she is Catholic, and, if approved as a Supreme Court justice, she will be the sixth Catholic on the nine-member court. That is a remarkable accomplishment for American Catholics, who make up 23 percent of the nation’s population, and will now potentially hold 67 percent of the high court’s seats. Two of the justices are Jewish; the resignation of Justice David Souter, who is an Episcopalian, will leave, amazingly given the history of this nation, just one Protestant on the Supreme Court, 89-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens…. – Boston Globe, 5-26-09
  • L.A. Latinos savor Supreme Court choice: It’s about time, some say, as President Obama nominates federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor. She would be the court’s first Latina…. – LAT, 5-26-09
  • Court Nomination Creates a Puff of Pride, and Some Concerns, Among Hispanics: In restaurants, homes and offices across the country, Hispanics responded to Judge Sotomayor’s selection with a puff of pride, some gratitude and considerable discussion. In interviews in Miami, Los Angeles and New York, many said this kind of recognition from Washington — Democratic or Republican — was long overdue given the growing size of the Hispanic voting bloc…. – NYT, 5-26-09


The President and Judge Sotomayor

Political Quotes

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls for Thorough and Timely Confirmation for Judge Sonia Sotomayor: This week, I nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring after nearly two decades on the Supreme Court. After reviewing many terrific candidates, I am certain that she is the right choice. In fact, there has not been a nominee in several generations who has brought the depth of judicial experience to this job that she offers…. – White House, 5-30-09
  • Gingrich Calls Sotomayor “Racist”: “Imagine a judicial nominee said ‘my experience as a white man makes me better than a latina woman,'” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., blogged today. “Wouldn’t they have to withdraw? New racism is no better than old racism. A white man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw. Latina woman racist should also withdraw.” The conservatives are decrying a comment made by Judge Sotomayor in 2001, addressing former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s famous quote that “a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.” “I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement,” Sotomayor said. “First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” “Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society,” she said…. – ABC News, 5-27-09
  • No filibuster, but Sotomayor battle still loom: Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he didn’t foresee a filibuster, essentially the only way Republicans could try to stop Sotomayor since Democrats control the Senate. Still, he made it clear that Republicans were ready to raise pointed questions about whether Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominee to the high court, would let her personal life color her legal opinions — and whether that’s appropriate for a Supreme Court justice.
    “We have an absolute constitutional duty to make sure that any nominee, no matter what their background and what kind of life story they have, that we examine that so the American people can know that the person we give a lifetime appointment to … will be faithful to the law and not allow their personal views to influence decision-making,” Sessions said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.” – AP, 5-27-09
  • The President’s Nominee: Judge Sonia Sotomayor – WH Blog, 5-26-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN NOMINATING JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR TO THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT: Of the many responsibilities granted to a President by our Constitution, few are more serious or more consequential than selecting a Supreme Court justice. The members of our highest court are granted life tenure, often serving long after the Presidents who appointed them. And they are charged with the vital task of applying principles put to paper more than 20 [sic] centuries ago to some of the most difficult questions of our time.
    So I don’t take this decision lightly. I’ve made it only after deep reflection and careful deliberation. While there are many qualities that I admire in judges across the spectrum of judicial philosophy, and that I seek in my own nominee…..
    After completing this exhaustive process, I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice: Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York. (Applause.)
    Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice….. – White House, 5-26-09
  • JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Thank you, Mr. President, for the most humbling honor of my life. You have nominated me to serve on the country’s highest court, and I am deeply moved…..
    It is a daunting feeling to be here. Eleven years ago, during my confirmation process for appointment to the Second Circuit, I was given a private tour of the White House. It was an overwhelming experience for a kid from the South Bronx. Yet never in my wildest childhood imaginings did I ever envision that moment, let alone did I ever dream that I would live this moment.
    Mr. President, I greatly appreciate the honor you are giving me, and I look forward to working with the Senate in the confirmation process. I hope that as the Senate and the American people learn more about me they will see that I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Today is one of those experiences.
    Thank you again, sir. (Applause.) – White House, 5-26-09
  • Obama makes Sotomayor his first Supreme Court nominee: President Barack Obama nominated Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, Reuters reports. “I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice, Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York,” Obama said in a White House event announcing his decision…. – National Post, 5-26-09
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev: “As majority leader, I will do all I can to ensure Judge Sonia Sotomayor receives a fair and respectful hearing and the Senate’s quick confirmation.”
  • Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: “Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly. But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law evenhandedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.”
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee: “Judge Sotomayor has a long and distinguished career on the federal bench. She has been nominated by both Democratic and Republican presidents, and she was twice confirmed by the Senate with strong, bipartisan support.”
  • Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican: “We must determine if Ms. Sotomayor understands that the proper role of a judge is to act as a neutral umpire of the law, calling balls and strikes fairly without regard to one’s own personal preferences or political views.”
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., member of the Judiciary Committee: “This is an historic choice, and much more. Judge Sotomayor meets three very important standards in filling this Supreme Court vacancy — excellence, moderation and diversity.”
  • Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, member of the Judiciary Committee: “She must prove her commitment to impartially deciding cases based on the law, rather than based on her own personal politics, feelings and preferences.”
  • Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., member of the Judiciary Committee: “Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court.”
  • Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, member of the Judiciary Committee: “The Judiciary Committee should take time to ensure that the nominee will be true to the Constitution and apply the law, not personal politics, feelings or preferences.”
  • Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: “With eight men, one woman and no Hispanics currently sitting on the court, President Obama listened to voices like former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in recognizing that diversity on the bench is essential.”
  • John Yoo, former Justice Department lawyer who wrote memos during the Bush administration on the legality of harsh interrogation techniques: “Sotomayor’s record on the bench, at first glance, appears undistinguished. She will not bring to the table the firepower that many liberal academics are asking for.”
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: “I congratulate Judge Sonia Sotomayor on her nomination by the president to be an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. I look forward to examining her record thoroughly during the Senate confirmation process.”
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., member of the Judiciary Committee: “I am impressed that Judge Sotomayor is someone who knows the Constitution and the law, but who also knows America.”
  • Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine: “I commend President Obama for nominating a well-qualified woman.” Delegate Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico.: “Puerto Ricans, both on the island and in the 50 states, take great pride in today’s historic appointment. The story of Sonia Sotomayor is truly an inspiration.” —
  • Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network: “She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court.”
  • Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens: “The Supreme Court should reflect the diverse population of the U.S. to ensure the highest court understands the unique circumstances of all Americans.”
  • Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele: “Republicans will reserve judgment on Sonia Sotomayor until there has been a thorough and thoughtful examination of her legal views.”
  • Larry Klayman, founder, chairman and general counsel of Freedom Watch: “While I would have liked to see a more conservative libertarian type on the high court, President Obama’s selection of New York federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor was a very prudent and wise decision from a far left liberal like Obama.” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous: “It brings us one step closer to the inclusive democracy that is the hallmark and promise of our great nation. Judge Sotomayor has the track record, the intellectual fortitude and the life experiences that will serve our nation well.”
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., member of the Judiciary Committee: “The president has chosen a very solid and tested woman as his nominee for the United States Supreme Court.”
  • Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.: “Judge Sotomayor’s remarkable life story is an inspiring example of the American dream, and she has a highly distinguished legal background. She’ll bring intelligence, insight, and experience to the vital work of protecting the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans.”
  • Raul Danny Vargas, national chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly: “Her compelling personal story of overcoming adversity to achieve success through hard work and education are to be celebrated. We look forward to a fair and thorough confirmation process, a courtesy some Democrats did not afford to some conservative Hispanic judicial nominees during the Bush administration.”
  • Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.: “I supported Judge Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998 and from all accounts, she is a highly qualified and very experienced judge.”
  • Rush Limbaugh: “A majority of Republicans are going to be scared to death to oppose her … because the Dems are going to use … race, identity politics, minority status, feminism, to criticize me and any other Republican that dares oppose her.”


Historians’ Comments

  • Alan Abramowitz “US top court pick may lure Hispanic votes”: Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. population and 9 percent of the electorate and they voted around 68 percent for Obama in 2008, said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. “Appointing a Hispanic woman … makes a lot of sense politically” in terms of consolidating Hispanic votes, said Abramowitz. – Reuters, 5-26-09
  • Dennis J. Hutchinson “Sotomayor Would Make It 6 Catholics on the Court”: Experts have been split on what the Catholic majority has meant so far. They point out that Catholics on the bench historically have spanned the spectrum from liberal to conservative. Dennis J. Hutchinson, a court historian at the University of Chicago, noted in 2005 that one of the most liberal Supreme Court justices of the 20th century, William J. Brennan, was a Catholic, and so is one of the most conservative, Scalia. The religious affiliation of the justices is not a burning issue because “we’ve learned that Catholics can be conservative or liberal, and that in terms of judges, ideology trumps any sort of presumption about church doctrine — and that’s true whether the justice is a Protestant, a Catholic or a Jew,” he said. – WaPo, 5-26-09
  • David Garrow “Speculation abounds in upcoming high court vacancy”: “How long the hearings last really depends on who the nominee is,” said David Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Supreme Court expert. “If he or she falls into what I call the ‘Breyer category,’ where nobody could find anything objectionable to say about this guy, hearings will be a breeze. If he falls into perhaps the ‘Bork category,’ anything goes.”… – CNN, 5-19-09
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