Just over a month after David Souter announced his retirement, President Obama has named the woman he hopes will fill Souter’s seat:
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama named federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor as the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice on Tuesday, praising her as “an inspiring woman” with both the intellect and compassion to interpret the Constitution wisely.
Obama said Sotomayor has more experience as a judge than any current member of the high court had when nominated, adding she has earned the “respect of colleagues on the bench,” the admiration of lawyers who appear in her court and “the adoration of her clerks.”
“My heart today is bursting with gratitude,” Sotomayor said from the White House podium moments after being introduced by Obama.
If confirmed by the Senate, she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court, the third in history. She would succeed retiring Justice David Souter.
She would be unlikely to alter the ideological balance of the court, since Souter generally sides with the liberals on key 5-4 rulings. But at 54, she is a generation younger that Souter, and liberal outside groups hope she will provide a counterpoint to some of the sharply worded conservative rulings.
From what little I’ve read about her so far, it’s not all that surprising that Obama would pick Sotomayor since she seems to be pretty much in line with his, and the Democratic Party’s, view of Constitutional Law as Ilya Somin notes:
Judge Sotomayor is not one of the leading lights of the federal judiciary and would not even have been on the shortlist if she were not Hispanic.
She has a mixed reputation, with a questionable temperament and no particularly important opinions in over 10 years on the Second Circuit. Most notably, she was part of the panel that summarily affirmed the dismissal of Ricci v. DeStefano, where the City of New Haven denied firefighter promotions based on an admittedly race-neutral exam whose results did not yield the “correct” racial mix of successful candidates. Sotomayor’s colleague José Cabranes—a liberal Democrat—excoriated the panel’s actions and the Supreme Court will likely reverse the ruling next month.
If this is the kind of “empathy” the president wants from his judges, we are in for a long summer—and more bitter confirmation battles in the future.
Perhaps, but, at least this year, the GOP is not in a position to stop this nomination. Even if it were a matter of a straight party-line vote, the Democratic majority in the Senate makes confirmation pre-determined in many respects. Add to that the fact that we’re likely to see at least a few Republicans vote for her confirmation in the end, and even the unlikely possibility of a filibuster is closed off.
That said, the GOP has an opportunity to make an argument to the public about their view of what the role of the Judiciary is in the United States.
Let’s hope they don’t bungle it.
Oops, too late.