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05-26-09, 08:10 PM #1
Obama nominates "first Hispanic Female" Supreme Court Justice.
President Obama nominated a Hispanic woman to be Supreme Court justice today — the first Latina to be chosen for America's highest court.
Sonia Sotomayor, a 54-year-old appeals court judge, would succeed the retiring Justice David Souter if confirmed by the Senate — a near certainty given the Democrat majority in the chamber.
“An inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice," Mr Obama said of Judge Sotomayor. “She’s lived out the American dream that brought her parents here many years ago.”
Judge Sotomayor describes herself as a "Newyorkrican" who grew up in a Bronx housing project after her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico.
As a child, Judge Sotomayor was a fan of Perry Mason, a television programme about the law, and she knew that she wanted to be a judge by the age of 10. “I realised that the judge was the most important player in that room,” she said in a 1998 interview.
She was first nominated as a trial judge by President Bush in 1991 in a deal with the state’s US senators. She was then elevated to the appeals court in 1998 by President Clinton, but her confirmation took more than a year as many Republicans in the Senate tried to stymie her selection.
Today, Judge Sotomayor paid tribute to America’s founding fathers, who she said inspired her to work carefully within the laws they had created. “It would be a profound privilege for me to play a role in applying those principles,” she said. “My heart today is bursting with gratitude ... I am deeply moved.”
The nominee came to national prominence when she helped to end a strike that halted the Major League Baseball season for almost a year in 1995.
She issued an order against baseball owners effectively ending the longest work stoppage in professional sporting history, which had led to the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years. “Some people say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball,” Mr Obama said.
If she is confirmed she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court.
Conservative groups were quick to denounce the choice. Wendy E. Long, counsel to the 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.”
The network, which has links to the Swift Boat group that attacked the Vietnam war record of the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, began campaigning against Mr Obama’s selection even before it was announced.
Last week the organisation attacked Judge Sotomayor for ruling against a group of white firemen who had brought a reverse discrimination case. They also launched a series of adverts last week warning that Diane Wood, another contender, punished anti-abortion demonstrators “under the same law that applies to mob bosses”.
Critics have seized on a that emerged this year of Judge Sotomayor asserting in 2005 that a “court of appeals is where policy is made”.
She quickly laughed and added: “And I know — I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don’t make law. I know. OK I know. I’m not promoting it. I’m not advocating it. I’m — you know.”
During the official announcement today Mr Obama and Judge Sotomayor were both keen to stress their respect for the constraints on a judge’s duty. They both emphasised that it will be her job to interpret, not change, the nation’s laws.
Divorced with no children, and with a reputation as a workaholic, Judge Sotomayor often speaks of the courts as “the last refuge for the oppressed”.
Her father died when she was 9 and living in low-income housing near the Yankees Stadium in New York. Her mother, a registered nurse, worked six days a week to raise her and a brother, who went on to become a doctor.
Judge Sotomayor won scholarships first to Princeton University, where she graduated summa cum laude and then Yale Law School, where she earned the top honour of serving as an editor on the university’s Law Review.
Mr Obama said today that he was looking for a jurist who had “a common touch and a sense of compassion” as well as a great understanding of American law.
The President said that when she had diabetes diagnosed as a child “she was told he would have to scale back her dreams ... but no dream is beyond reach in the United States of America.”
Sonia Sotomayor was born on June 25, 1954, and grew up on the Bronxdale housing project in New York.
She was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight. Her father, who was a factory worker, died when she was nine years old and her mother raised her and her brother alone, working as a nurse at a methadone clinic to support them.
Sotomayor’s first language was Spanish. She attended the local high school and won a place at Princeton in 1972 – three years after the University began accepting women. She was named the top undergraduate in her senior year and progressed to Yale Law School, where she edited the Yale Law Journal.
In 1979, she began her legal career as an assistant district attorney and progressed to become a private attorney and then a federal judge. She has sat on the federal appeals bench in Manhattan for the past 11 years.
Republicans accuse Sotomayor of holding “far-left” values. She has described the courts as “the last refuge for the oppressed.”
In 1995 she issued an injunction which ended an eight-month major league baseball strike that had led to the first ever cancellation of the World Series.
Sotomayor will be the third woman, and the first Hispanic judge to sit in the Supreme Court.
She is divorced with no children. She cites fictional defence lawyer Perry Mason as her inspiration.
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