The New York Times reports that President Obama has chosen Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee to replace Justice Souter. Sotomayor is a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. If confirmed, which seems a near-certainty barring serious scandal, she will be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor’s life story in many ways mirrors that of the president himself. She was raised by a single mother in a decidedly unprivileged environment but ended up graduating summa cum laude from Princeton University and went on to Yale Law School. Interestingly, she was first nominated to the federal bench by the first President Bush in 1991, then elevated to the appeals court by President Clinton in 1997.
She will no doubt be immediately attacked as an “activist judge,” a commonly heard code phrase with no serious meaning. Indeed, the Times reports that it has begun even before the pick was announced:
“Judge Sotomayor is a liberal activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written,” said Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, an activist group. “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.”
But in reality, the Republicans have little chance of derailing her nomination. The Democrats control 59 votes in the Senate (likely 60 by the time the nomination is voted on because Al Franken will likely be seated by then) and many Republicans will be reticent to take a strong stand against the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Supreme Court given the size of the Hispanic voting bloc in this country.
Of course, being the genius that I am, I posted a blog piece saying the nominee would be Diane Wood about 45 minutes before Sotomayor was announced. Oops. I’ll have a more thorough analysis of her record of rulings and opinions in the next couple days.