Obama taps a Newyorkrican for the High Court! YAY!

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    May 26, 2009 1:59 PM GMT
    WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama tapped federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, officials said, making her the first Hispanic in history picked to wear the robes of a justice.

    If confirmed by the Senate, Sotomayor, 54, would succeed retiring Justice David Souter. Two officials described Obama's decision on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.

    Administration officials say Sotomayor, with 17 years on the bench, would bring more judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice confirmed in the past 70 years.

    A formal announcement was expected at midmorning.

    Obama had said publicly he wanted a justice who combined intellect and empathy — the ability to understand the troubles of everyday Americans.

    While Republican critics chafed at that, Democrats hold a large majority in the Senate, and barring the unexpected, Sotomayor's confirmation should be assured. If approved, she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court.

    In one of Sotomayor's most notable decisions, as an appellate judge she sided last year with the city of New Haven, Conn., in a discrimination case brought by white firefighters. The city threw out results of a promotion exam because too few minorities scored high enough. Ironically, that case is now before the Supreme Court.

    That ruling has already drawn criticism from conservatives, and is likely to play a role in her confirmation hearing.

    Sotomayor is a self-described "Newyorkrican" who grew up in a Bronx housing project after her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico. She has dealt with diabetes since age 8 and lost her father at age 9, growing up under the care of her mother in humble surroundings. As a girl, inspired by the Perry Mason television show, she knew she wanted to be a judge.

    A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, a former prosecutor and private attorney, Sotomayor became a federal judge for the Southern District of New York in 1992. She became an appeals judge in 1998 for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which covers New York, Vermont and Connecticut.

    As a judge, she has a bipartisan pedigree. She was first appointed by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush, and won Senate confirmation without dissent. She was named an appeals judge by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

    At her Senate confirmation hearing more than a decade ago, she said, "I don't believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it."

    In one of her most memorable rulings as federal district judge, Sotomayor essentially salvaged baseball in 1995, ruling with players over owners in a labor strike that had led to the cancellation of the World Series.

    Obama's nomination is the first by a Democratic president in 15 years.

    His announcement also leaves the Senate four months — more than enough by traditional standards — to complete confirmation proceedings before the Court begins its next term in the fall.

    Republicans have issued conflicting signals about their intentions. While some have threatened filibusters if they deemed Obama's pick too liberal, others have said that is unlikely.

    Given Sotomayor's selection, any decision to filibuster would presumably carry political risks — Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population and an increasingly important one politically.

    One conservative group did not wait for the formal announcement. Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network, issued a statement calling Sotomayor a "liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written."

    Abortion rights have been a flashpoint in several recent Supreme Court confirmations, although Sotomayor has not authored any controversial rulings on the subject.

    As a federal appeals court judge in 2002, Sotomayor ruled against an abortion rights group that had challenged a government policy prohibiting foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions.

    In her opinion, Sotomayor wrote that the government was free to favor the anti-abortion position over a pro-choice position when public funds are involved.

    Sotomayor's elevation to the appeals court was delayed by Republicans, in part out of concerns she might someday be selected for the Supreme Court. She was ultimately confirmed for the appeals court in 1998 on a 68-28 vote, gathering some Republican support.

    Among those voting against her was Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee that will hold sway over her confirmation.

    nominated.

    Sotomayor possesses credentials Sessions said he wanted in a pick for the high court — years of experience on the bench. Obama had talked openly about the upside of choosing someone outside the judiciary — every current justice is a former federal appeals court judge — but passed over at least two serious candidates who had never been judges.

    Sotomayor has spoken openly about her pride in her ethnic background and has said that personal experiences "affect the facts that judges choose to see."

    "I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging," she said in a speech in 2002. "But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

    From the moment Souter announced his resignation, it was widely assumed Obama would select a woman to replace him, and perhaps a Hispanic as well.

    Others known to have been considered included federal appeals judge Diane Wood, who was a colleague of the president's at the University of Chicago Law School, as well as two members of his administration, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor General-nominee Elena Kagan.

    Obama came to office at a time when several potential vacancies loomed on the high court. Justice John Paul Stevens at is 89, and Ginsburg recently underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer.
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    May 26, 2009 2:46 PM GMT
    I knew she was a possible pick, but didn't know how strong her resume was. It is interesting that the case of discrimination is following her to the supreme court! It will be good to see a more diverse face on the highest court in the land.
  • coolarmydude

    Posts: 9190

    May 26, 2009 3:22 PM GMT
    I was correct!!!!
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    May 26, 2009 3:35 PM GMT
    Looks like a prudent pick, but will listen for more information.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    May 26, 2009 4:53 PM GMT
    She was at the top of most shortlists. I'm concerned about her primarily for her decision in Doninger v Niehoff, where she ruled in favor of a high school principal barring a student for running for a class secretary position because the student complained on a blog and in an e-mail sent out to the broader community about the potential rescheduling/cancellation of a school event. The student actually won a plurality of votes as a write in candidate, despite not being allowed to be on the ballot nor to give a speech during an assembly for the elections, but the school refused to allow her to take that position, and instead gave it to the second place finisher. The court ruled that because this speech - not conducted during a class - created a "foreseeable risk of substantial disruption" at the high school, the school was in its rights to punish her. Part of this ruling is based on the idea that students may be reasonably punished for offensive or vulgar language, as the school has a responsibility for "teaching the students the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior". Granting the school the right to regulate a student's speech conducted off of school grounds and outside of school-sponsored events is deeply troubling to me.

    (much of my information on the case comes from this site, but the decision itself is available here)

    There's also the New Haven firefighter case, but that one's better known--it was appealed up to the Supreme Court, who heard arguments in April and will be ruling in June. While I have a philosophical objection to the decision she reached in that case, what I find more troubling is that she didn't actually respond to the objections raised on appeal, which I feel the role of an appeals judge.
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    May 26, 2009 5:01 PM GMT
    This woman's ruling in the New Haven Fire Department case is disturbing. Particularly the reasoning behind the ruling.
    I do think Obama could have picked an intellectually sharper nominee.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    May 26, 2009 5:01 PM GMT
    To clarify, she's almost certain to be confirmed. As well she should be. She's got tremendous experience (she's been a judge, a prosecutor, and a private attorney, and has been a federal judge for 17 years), she has an excellent academic pedigree (law school at Yale, summa cum laude at Princeton), and her opinions are not so far outside the mainstream to reasonably sink a nomination. If I were a Senator, based on what I know now I'd vote to confirm her myself. I'm merely troubled by a few of her stances.
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    May 26, 2009 5:11 PM GMT
    Another prejudiced minority.

    After her speech this morning the commentator said she'll be facing questions for some things she said about policy and law being made in appeals courts, and for what she said to a Latino group that an eldery latina woman would make better decisions/choices than a elderly white man.

    There is no excuse or pass for the stupidity that prejudice requires. Oh wait, yeah there is, it's called the race card.
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    May 26, 2009 6:52 PM GMT
    Ramshackle saidAnother prejudiced minority.

    After her speech this morning the commentator said she'll be facing questions for some things she said about policy and law being made in appeals courts, and for what she said to a Latino group that an eldery latina woman would make better decisions/choices than a elderly white man.

    There is no excuse or pass for the stupidity that prejudice requires. Oh wait, yeah there is, it's called the race card.


    well dare me... are you trying to say that it isn't possible for a latina to make a better decision than an elderly white man? totally outside the realm of possibility?

    i don't know about you, but i would like to start seeing others get a chance to make such decisions. why should only elderly white men have that opportunity to screw up icon_razz.gif
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    May 26, 2009 7:01 PM GMT
    Shackle,

    What are you talking about dude? Base on that what she said she should not be confirmed are you kidding me! icon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gificon_lol.gif

    What race card was played. Let me be the first say "The walls of Institutional Racism" in country has not crumbled because we have a mixed raced prisident if anything they are being reinforced.
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    May 26, 2009 9:53 PM GMT
    Edit: I was wrong. Don't know where I got the Cuba thing from...

    I think I just heard she's Cuban on CNN???
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    May 27, 2009 10:38 AM GMT
    One of the first conversations about her since her nomination announcement: