Obama Nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor to SCOTUS
Well, I was wrong. The conventional wisdom said that Obama would pick a Latina, adding another woman and the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court of the U.S. in one fell swoop–and the only person fitting such a description that also had the legal qualifications and experience was Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. So, she was widely rumored as a frontrunner and the right actually began a whisper campaign against her the moment that Justice David Souter announced his retirement at the end of this term of the Supreme Court–before anyone was nominated.
But I was convinced that Judge Sotomayor was too obvious a choice. Obama has picked surprising people to fill his cabinet posts (people are STILL surprised that he picked his arch-rival Hillary Clinton to become Secretary of State!) and, althought he has sought major diversity, has never picked just to have an affirmative action choice. I thought he certainly wanted someone who was NOT an appellate judge, but a working politician. So, I thought Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) of Michigan had the inside track. Also, despite the screams of the right, Judge Sotomayor is fairly centrist–not much more liberal than Justice Souter whom she’d be replacing, and so I thought Obama would save her for replacing a conservative–that he would pick a strong liberal to replace Souter.
I was wrong. Judge Sotomayor is the nominee. Obama wants her confirmed before the August recess of Congress, so that she will be ready to go when the SCOTUS begins its fall term on the first Monday in October. I think the GOP will try to drag it out to September, but I don’t think they have the votes to block her confirmation. She was nominated first for the federal bench by Pres. George H. W. Bush and then elevated to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals by Pres. Bill Clinton. So, Judge Sotomayor has twice been confirmed by the senate already. Seven (7) Republican senators voted for her confirmation in ’97. So, it will be hard to keep her off the Supreme Court. But the Right is already trying. The confirmation hearings will be nasty.
My one real concern is that with Sotomayor, 6 of the 9 SCOTUS justices will be Catholic. The remaining 3 will be two Jews and one Protestant (John Paul Stevens, the oldest Justice serving). In a country where Protestants are still a plurality, if no longer a strict majority, this is a very Catholic-dominated court. There are 11 Catholics who have been on the SCOTUS in U.S. history–and 5 of those 11 are still serving. This worries me some on church-state issues where Catholics have tended to support positions that I would consider violations of the 1st Amendment’s ban on all laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” I haven’t seen an analysis of Judge Sotomayor’s church–state decisions but would like to do so.
Obama is likely to have 1-2 more Supreme Court picks this term and, if he is reelected, at least 1 more pick in his 2nd term. I hope the others are more liberal and are not Catholic.
Bio: Judge Sonia Sotomayor is 54. Her parents came from Puerto Rico during WWII and both were working class people. She grew up in the Bronx, NY and first became interested in the law as a girl reading “Nancy Drew” mysteries. When she was diagnosed with childhood onset diabetes at age 8, she was told that diabetics did not have the physical stamina to become police officers or private investigators (not true). So, she became a judge. She graduated from Princeton University in 1976 summa cum laude. (So much for those who claim she is not intelligent!) She then graduated from Yale University Law School in 1979 after serving as editor of the Yale Law Review. She has been a NYC prosecutor and a civil litigator for international corporations operating in the U.S. She has been a trial judge and, when replacing Souter, will be the only member of SCOTUS who has served as a trial judge. She has been a state appellate judge (appointed in 1991 by Pres. George H.W. Bush) and a Circuit Court appellate judge (appointed in 1997 by Pres. Bill Clinton). Her name was previously floated as a replacement for Justice Sandra Day O’Conner when she retired from SCOTUS in ‘ 05.
This article shows convincingly that, although the rightwing noise machine will complain loudly about her nomination, they don’t have the votes to prevent her from being confirmed (or even to filibuster her nomination) –unless a major scandal would be uncovered (highly unlikely). And Republican Senators like Mitch McConnell are on record as opposing the filibustering of judicial nominees–calling it obstructionist. This won’t prevent them from reversing themselves now, but we can show them to be absolute hypocrites when they do reverse themselves.
Update: The Senate Judiciary Committee has just released its questionaire for Judge Sotomayor. After she has filled it out, they will release her answers. I indicated my questions for any replacement for Souter here.
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