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Obama Picks Sotomayor For Supreme Court

5/26/2009 12:13 PM Eastern

The White House has tapped Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor as its choice for the next Supreme Court Justice, succeeding retiring Justice David Souter.

The Second Circuit has been active in the indecency issue, hearing both the Fox fleeting profanities case and the NYPD Blue nudity decision challenge, but Sotomayor was not on either panel hearing those cases.

Several First Amendment attorneys contacted said they did not know much about her. She would be the first Hispanic-American Supreme Court justice if she passes muster in the Senate.

In announcing her as his pick, the president said she understood the limits of the judicial role, of interpreting not making the law and said that she had a rigorous mind. But he said a Supreme Court Justice needed more, citing her life experience of overcoming barriers -- Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx public housing project before going to Princeton and Yale Law School.

He also pointed out that Sotomayor was named a judge by a Republican, then-President George H. W. Bush. The president singled out her "15-minute" decision as a district court judge to issue an injunction in 1995 that ended a baseball strike, a decision that clearly made an impression on the "first baseball fan."

He called her an inspiring woman who he said would make a great justice.

Sotomayor said she would strive never to forget the real-world consequences of her decisions on individuals, companies, and the government.

She could face opposition from conservatives concerned she might become a judicial activist. For example, CNN cited a 2005 discussion at Duke, where Sotomayor told students the federal appeals court is where "policy is made."

"I believe that Judge Sotomayor will be in the mold of Justice Souter, who understands the real-world impact of the Court's decisions," said Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), "rather than the mold of the conservative activists who second-guess Congress, and who, through judicial extremism, undercut laws meant to protect Americans from discrimination in their jobs, their access to health care and education, and their privacy from an overreaching government. I believe Judge Sotomayor understands that the courthouse doors must be as open to ordinary Americans as they are to government and big corporations."

"Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.

"Our Democratic colleagues have often remarked that the Senate is not a ‘rubber stamp.' Accordingly, we trust they will ensure there is adequate time to prepare for this nomination, and a full and fair opportunity to question the nominee and debate her qualifications."

 

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