Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee named (Update)

Sources are now confirming that President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, filling Justice Souter’s seat, will be U.S. Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

The AP reports on the preliminary confirmation:

WASHINGTON (AP) – 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 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.

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.

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.

As a judge, she has a bipartisan pedigree. She was first appointed by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush, then named an appeals judge by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

Fox News reports:

President Obama plans to announce his nominee to the Supreme Court Tuesday morning, FOX News has confirmed.

The announcement, set for 10:15 a.m. ET, comes after the president met with his legal team Monday at the White House to discuss the selection. He also read through written material on potential picks over the weekend at Camp David, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The president has kept a tight lid on the identity of the nominee. As of midnight, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had not been given any notice of whom Obama had picked.

Obama’s nominee would replace outgoing Justice David Souter if confirmed. The presumptive short list includes several women, including federal appeals court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Wood.

As mentioned, a formal announcement is set for sometime around 10:15am eastern time, however, the name has leaked already. We will update again once that happens with video and further details.

Sotomayor will be a very liberal justice fitting Obama’s mold and political views. Nothing list, nothing gained as this will be a liberal replacing a liberal. I guess the ironic part is that Souter was appointed by the first President Bush though he turned out to be a very left-of-center justice in his rulings.


The knives came out against Sotomayor at the beginning of May, from Democrats:

But despite the praise from some of her former clerks, and warm words from some of her Second Circuit colleagues, there are also many reservations about Sotomayor. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. Most are Democrats and all of them want President Obama to appoint a judicial star of the highest intellectual caliber who has the potential to change the direction of the court. Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was “not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench,” as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. “She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren’t penetrating and don’t get to the heart of the issue.” (During one argument, an elderly judicial colleague is said to have leaned over and said, “Will you please stop talking and let them talk?”) Second Circuit judge Jose Cabranes, who would later become her colleague, put this point more charitably in a 1995 interview with The New York Times: “She is not intimidated or overwhelmed by the eminence or power or prestige of any party, or indeed of the media.”

Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees. It’s customary, for example, for Second Circuit judges to circulate their draft opinions to invite a robust exchange of views. Sotomayor, several former clerks complained, rankled her colleagues by sending long memos that didn’t distinguish between substantive and trivial points, with petty editing suggestions–fixing typos and the like–rather than focusing on the core analytical issues.

Sotomayor also wrongly believes policy should be created by the court, not the legislature. That is a shame since it further erodes the check and balance of our system.

It would be nice to have a Supreme Court nominee who believed that the legislature makes the laws and the SCOTUS determines whether they are constitutional. Not one which views the SCOTUS as an unelected, unaccountable policy-creating body. Despite what her views are, I could at least respect a Justice who did not wish to impose their own beliefs on the law, rather desired to interpret it based on the constitution in the constructionist mold.

More to come with the official announcement.


One of Sonia Sotmayor’s famous quotes from the New York Times:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” said Judge Sotomayor

That’s a shame. I would have hoped we would simply strive for the best candidate for the job with credentials to interpret the constitution, not re-write it. It should not matter what your ethnicity is or your background, the question is your credentials and your ability to determine the constitutionality of laws.

It appears President Obama has, predictably, chosen a liberal activist in Sotomayor.


Video of the announcement:

More later.