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Akron Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Judge Sonia Sotomayor Nominated

The New York Times reports that President Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Unisted States Supreme Court.  Peter Baker and Jeff Zeleny write,

President Obama has decided to nominate the federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, choosing a daughter of Puerto Rican parents raised in Bronx public housing projects to become the nation’s first Hispanic justice, officials said Tuesday. . . .

Judge Sotomayor, 54, who has served for more than a decade on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals based in New York City, would become the nation’s 111th justice, replacing David H. Souter, who is retiring after 19 years on the bench. Although Justice Souter was appointed by the first President George Bush, he became a mainstay of the liberal faction on the court and so his replacement by Judge Sotomayor likely would not shift the overall balance of power.

But her appointment would add a second woman to the nine-member court and give Hispanics their first seat. Her life story, mirroring in some ways Mr. Obama’s own, would add a different complexion to the panel, fulfilling the president’s stated desire to add diversity of background to the nation’s highest tribunal.

Judge Sotomayor’s father died when she was 9 years old and she was raised by her mother, who worked six-day weeks to earn enough money to send her and a brother to Catholic school. She got into Princeton University, where she once said she felt like “a visitor landing in an alien country,” but graduated summa cum laude.

After Yale Law School, where she was editor of the Yale Law Journal, she worked for Robert M. Morgenthau in the district attorney’s office in New York and later was in private practice. The first President Bush nominated her in 1991 to the federal district court on the recommendation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, and she was confirmed a year later. President Bill Clinton decided to elevate her to the appeals court in 1997 and she was confirmed a year later.

Judge Sotomayor has said her ethnicity and gender are important factors in serving on the bench, a point that could generate debate. “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,” she said in a 2002 lecture. . . .

On the appeals court, Judge Sotomayor has not been involved in many hotly disputed decisions, but one that she participated in is before the Supreme Court right now. As part of a panel, she voted to uphold New Haven’s decision to throw out a set of fire department promotion tests because no minority candidates made the top of the list. White firefighters who scored high but were denied promotion are appealing that ruling.   As a district judge, she briefly earned fame in 1995 by ending a Major League Baseball strike, ruling in favor of players and against the owners, who she said were trying to subvert the labor system. . . .

More background on Judge Soto myere can be found here and here.

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