With the announcement of David Souter's coming retirement, many eyes have turned to Sonia Sotomayor, a name long mentioned as a possible SCOTUS nominee.
Who is this woman and why is she on everyone's list?
Read more below the crease:
Born in the Bronx in 1954, Sotomayor is a first generation American. Her parents were from Puerto Rico. After father died when she was young, she grew up in public housing with her mother and her brother, who became a doctor.
She explains her attraction to the law in an ABA article from 2000:
"When I was nine or ten, I became enamored of Nancy Drew stories and I wanted to be an investigative detective like her," Judge Sotomayor recalls. "But I had developed diabetes at 8 and was told I wouldn’t be able to do that kind of work."
Calling herself "a true media child," she says Perry Mason ultimately provided the motivation to switch her career goals.
"I noticed that Perry Mason was involved in a lot of the same kinds of investigative work that I had been fascinated with reading Nancy Drew, so I decided to become a lawyer," Judge Sotomayor explains. "Once I focused on becoming a lawyer, I never deviated from that goal."
Sotomayor attended Princeton, graduating summa cum laude in 1976 and said she grew more during those years than at any other time in her life. From there she went to Yale Law School, becoming editor of the Yale Law Journal and earning a J.D. in 1979.
She went to work as a New York assistant D.A. under Robert Morganthau litigating criminal cases. In 1984 she went into private practice, specializing in litigating
intellectual property and copyright cases, international transactions involving grain commodity trading, and automobile dealer relations law. Working for both American and foreign clients, she had the opportunity to travel extensively domestically and abroad. Some of her most exciting cases involved legal work on behalf of clients who were trademark owners. Many of the cases required a great deal of investigative work when counterfeit issues arose.
"As a result, I had my own bulletproof vest and worked closely with law enforcement officials," she says, fulfilling in part the Nancy Drew fantasies of her youth.
She was nominated to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush in 1991 and was confirmed in August 1992.
Her most famous decision in that position was
On March 30, 1995, she issued the preliminary injunction against Major League Baseball, preventing MLB from unilaterally implementing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and using replacement players, thus ending the 1994 baseball strike.
President Clinton nominated her to her current appellate position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in October 1998.
According to rightpundits.com:
For much of her career, she was considered a moderate, hence her appointments by both a Republican and Democratic President. Today, conservatives tend to view her as a judicial activist and a liberal.
Sotomayor’s appointment seems to make sense for Barack Obama. She would be a liberal, pro-choice justice who would maintain the judicial majority that opposes the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Further, by nominating a Hispanic woman, Obama would potentially gain standing within the Hispanic communities.
And because Sotomayor has a reputation for staying behind the scenes and sits on a federal bench known for its centrism, it's likely that she would be able to garner a two-thirds majority in the Senate, even if the Democrats only control an estimated 55 or so seats. Plus there's an insurance measure if the nomination gets too politicized publicly: Sotomayor was appointed to the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush. Says Tushnet, "If you're a Democratic strategist, you can gin up ads that say, 'She was good enough for George H. W. Bush. Why isn't she good enough for Mitch McConnell?'"
What kind of justice would she be? Says Esquire:
In her rulings, Sotomayor has often shown suspicion of bloated government and corporate power. She's offered a reinterpretation of copyright law, ruled in favor of public access to private information, and in her most famous decision, sided with labor in the Major League Baseball strike of 1995. More than anything else, she is seen as a realist. With a likely 20 years ahead on the bench, she'll have plenty of time to impart her realist philosophy.
Obama has said that he wants a Supreme Court Justice to be grounded in the real world. Sotomayor, like Obama, comes from humble beginnings and rose to her current position through her own hard work and talent. She has been both a criminal and civil litigator and has been a federal judge and a federal appellate judge. And of course Sotomayor is demographically advantageous.
Listen to what Obama had to say at a town hall meeting during the campaign and ask yourself if she fits the bill: