Obama Says Sotomayor Has Brilliant Legal Career’

Posted May 26, 2009 at 10:31am

President Barack Obama on Tuesday officially tapped Sonia Sotomayor as his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, calling the Hispanic federal appeals court judge someone with a “brilliant legal career— who has the “wisdom— gleaned from a difficult life.

During remarks in the East Room with Sotomayor at his side, the president also appeared to up the ante a bit on the Senate, asking to have her seated by September so she could help choose the cases the high court will hear this year. Obama had previously suggested he wanted his nominee installed by the time the court officially convenes in October.

Sotomayor, 54 of New York, is “an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice,— Obama said. She has “worked at almost every level of our legal system,— but “she has never forgotten where she began, never lost touch,— Obama said.

“Walking in the door, she would bring more experience on the bench — and more varied experience on the bench —than anyone serving on the Supreme Court had when they were appointed,— Obama said, noting that she would replace retiring Justice David Souter as the only justice with experience as a trial judge.

Obama pointed to her challenging upbringing, noting Sotomayor had lost her father at 9, forcing her mother to work six days a week as a nurse.

If confirmed, Sotomayor would become the second female justice and first Hispanic on the nine-member Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the other woman on the nation’s highest court.

Sotomayor’s remarks were highly personal, focusing on her family, her experiences and on those who helped her along the way — while staying mostly away from her legal philosophy.

“My heart today is bursting with gratitude for all you have done for me,— she said. “I stand on the shoulders of countless people, yet there is one extraordinary person who is my life aspiration, and that person is my mother, Celina Sotomayor.—

Sotomayor’s mother sometimes worked two jobs after her father died in order to support her two children, she said. She had a humble upbringing in the South Bronx.

While she said little about her judicial philosophy, Sotomayor’s remarks at least briefly touched on what conservatives have been arguing for in a nominee. She said: “I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights.—

She also said that Founding Fathers had “set forth principles that have endured.— But she also said that she looked forward to “applying those principle to the questions and controversies we face today,— sounding more like justices who view the Constitution as an evolving document.

Sotomayor emphasized her modest upbringing and life experiences.

“I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government,— she said. “I hope that as the Senate and the American people learn more about me, they will see that I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences.—