This morning, President Obama is expected to name Sonia Sotomayor, currently a federal judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, as his Supreme Court nominee. She is the first Hispanic nominee for the high court, and if chosen, would become just the third woman to serve. President George H.W. Bush nominated her for her previous post as a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Born to parents who came from Puerto Rico, Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx housing project. In addition to her 16 years of court experience and her time as editor of the Yale Law Review, Sotomayor also “spent five years as a prosecutor with the Manhattan District Attorney, then developed her substantial civil practice as a commercial litigator.” However, during her “wrinkle-free confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee” in 1992, senators focused on her substantial pro bono activities:
For 12 years she was a top policy maker on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. She was also on the board of the State of New York Mortgage Agency, where she helped provide mortgage insurance coverage to low-income housing and AIDS hospices. In her leisure time she became a founding member of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which distributes public money for city campaigns.
Last week, the well-respected SCOTUS Blog underscored the historic nature of a Sotomayor nomination and warned Republicans that it will be “hopeless” to try to block her nomination. Politically, such attacks risk “exacting a very significant political cost among Hispanics and independent voters generally.” A look at some of the likely conservative claims:
Opponents’ first claim — likely stated obliquely and only on background – will be that Judge Sotomayor is not smart enough for the job. This is a critical ground for the White House to capture. … The objective evidence is that Sotomayor is in fact extremely intelligent. Graduating at the top of the class at Princeton is a signal accomplishment. Her opinions are thorough, well-reasoned, and clearly written. Nothing suggests she isn’t the match of the other Justices. [...]
The second claim — and this one will be front and center — will be the classic resort to ideology: that Judge Sotomayor is a liberal ideologue and “judicial activist.” … There is no question that Sonia Sotomayor would be on the left of this Supreme Court, just not the radical left. Our surveys of her opinions put her in essentially the same ideological position as Justice Souter. [...]
The third claim – related to the second – will be that Judge Sotomayor is unprincipled or dismissive of positions with which she disagrees. … There just isn’t any remotely persuasive evidence that Judge Sotomayor acts lawlessly or anything of the sort.
This morning, Karl Rove was on Fox News getting started on the attacks, calling Sotomayor an “unabashed liberal.” Watch it:
This morning on the Corner, Wendy Long uses 9/11 to attack Sotomayor: “On September 11, America saw firsthand the vital role of America’s firefighters in protecting our citizens. They put their lives on the line for her and the other citizens of New York and the nation. But Judge Sotomayor would sacrifice their claims to fair treatment in employment promotions to racial preferences and quotas.”
,Seven current Republican senators — Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), Orrin Hatch (UT), Richard Lugar (IN), Olympia Snowe (ME), Judd Gregg (NH), and Robert Bennett (UT)– bucked their party to vote to confirm Sotomayor to the Second Circuit in 1998. However, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Minority Whip John Kyl (AZ), ranking Judiciary Committee member Jeff Sessions (AL) and John McCain (AZ) were among the 28 Republicans who voted to block her confirmation. View the 1998 Senate roll call vote here.
,Statement from Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA):
I applaud the nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Her confirmation would add needed diversity in two ways: the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the high court. While her record suggests excellent educational and professional qualifications, now it is up to the Senate to discharge its constitutional duty for a full and fair confirmation process.
,Statement from RNC Chairman Michael Steele:
Republicans look forward to learning more about federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor’s thoughts on the importance of the Supreme Court’s fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law. Supreme Court vacancies are rare, which makes Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination a perfect opportunity for America to have a thoughtful discussion about the role of the Supreme Court in our daily lives. Republicans will reserve judgment on Sonia Sotomayor until there has been a thorough and thoughtful examination of her legal views.