On May 26, 2009, White House Officials announced President Obama’s decision to nominate US Court of Appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David H Souter in the Supreme Court. This nomination is receiving a great deal of media publicity at this crucial political and economic time. With so many people concerned about decisive issues such as abortion rights, the death penalty, gay rights, and national security, any newcomer to the Supreme Court is likely to wield considerable influence over the course of our legal landscape in the decades to come.
Who is Sonia Sotomayor?
Sonia Sotomayor, born in the New York City borough of the Bronx in 1954, has worked tirelessly in the legal profession for over 30 years. As a former New York City District Attorney prosecutor and private practice attorney, Sotomayor joined the US Federal Court system in 1992 when she became the youngest and first Puerto Rican American to become a judge for the US District Court. She later became a judge for the US Court of Appeals and is now under consideration for a Justice position with the US Supreme Court, the highest court in our nation.
June 23, 1954 Sonia Sotomayor is born in the Bronx, New York
1962 Diagnosed with diabetes at age 8
1976 Graduates from Princeton University summa cum laude
1979 Receives her JD at Yale and serves as Editor of Yale Law School
Early 1980s serves as a prosecutor for Manhattan District Attorney’s office
1984 Enters private legal practice
1992 Became the youngest person and the first Puerto Rican
American to be appointed as a United States District Court
judge for the Southern District of New York
1998 Began serving as a judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
May 2009 President Barack Obama nominates Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, to replace retiring judge David H Souter.
Considered neither an extreme liberal nor a crusader, Sotomayor has earned a reputation as an astute, outspoken, fearless, and sometimes sharp-tongued judge who is unswayed by powerful political interests.
With regards to predicting her views on major current issues, it is unclear where Sotomayor may side on matters such as abortion, gay marriage, and big business. Some abortion rights activists feel Sotomayor may not be a reliable vote to assure that Roe v Wade is upheld at this moment when the nation is deeply divided over abortion and its legality. Lawyers and scholars say they are unable to clearly place Sotomayor as either pro or anti-business.
Primer on the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the US, consists of nine Supreme Court Justices including one Chief Justice. All Justices are nominated by the President, confirmed by a Senate majority, and serve for life. In contemporary times, once a judge has been nominated a Senate Judiciary Committee forms to conduct hearings, question nominees, and determine their suitability. Following their confirmation hearings, the Committee votes on whether the nomination should go to the full Senate with a positive, negative or neutral report. While it is possible for a President to withdrawal his nomination of a candidate if he feels the nominee will not be confirmed, historically the Senate usually confirms a President’s nominee.
Current Supreme Court Justices
The current Supreme Court bench is composed of nine justices:
1. Chief Justice John Roberts (age 54)- nominated by GW Bush
2. Justice John Paul Stevens (89)- nominated by Ford
3. Justice Antonin Scalia (73)- nominated by Reagan
4. Justice Anthony Kennedy (72)- nominated by Reagan
5. Justice Clarence Thomas (60)- nominated by GHW Bush
6. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (76)- nominated by Clinton
7. Justice Stephen Breyer (70)- nominated by Clinton
8. Justice Samuel Alito (59) – nominated by GW Bush
9. Justice David Souter (69) – nominated by GHW Bush
The Sotomayor Nomination
If Sotomayor is confirmed, she will be the first Latina woman to ever serve on the Supreme Court. This fact has Conservative critics in a sticky position as they attempt to weigh the price of aggressive opposition to the first Hispanic Supreme Court nominee at a time when they are trying so desperately to appeal to Hispanic voters.
Furthermore, if confirmed, Sotomayor will be one of two women currently serving on the Supreme Court and the third woman ever two fill this position.