Obama Selects Sotomayor for High Court

Posted May 26, 2009 at 7:47am

Updated: 10:17 a.m.President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he has chosen federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York to serve as the first Hispanic to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Sotomayor, a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998, is the daughter of a Puerto Rican father, a manual laborer who died when she was 9. She has been on Obama’s short list since Justice David Souter announced he would retire from the high court in June. She would be the second female on the court in addition to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.While she may not appeal to many conservatives, Sotomayor, 54, is expected to face a smooth Senate confirmation. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) already has been reaching out to Republicans on his committee — which has jurisdiction over the nomination process — to cool any partisan flames.Obama is hoping to have Sotomayor, his first Supreme Court appointee, installed by the time the chamber adjourns for the August recess. He has said he’d like to have the vacancy filled when the court reconvenes in early October.President Bill Clinton appointed Sotomayor to her current appeals court post. But her previous position as a federal district judge in New York stemmed from a nomination by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Even so, one conservative group signaled it is ready to vigorously oppose her. “Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written,— said Wendy E. Long, council to the Judicial Confirmation Network.In tapping Sotomayor for the high court, Obama bypassed another widely touted federal appeals court judge, Diane Wood, as well as his own solicitor general, Elena Kagan. Both were seen as the top prospects along with Sotomayor. But Kagan has never served as a judge, and Obama apparently decided that, even with his re-election date a few years away, he wants to make history now by choosing a Hispanic.Obama had said he wanted a justice with “empathy— and someone who didn’t necessarily meet the mold of a traditional high court pick. He chose Sotomayor even though she drew controversy when she was taped a few years back suggesting that the “court of appeals is where policy is made.— Sotomayor attended Yale Law School, where she was editor of Yale Law Journal. She served as assistant district attorney in Manhattan and was in private practice before being nominated by Bush for the federal district court.