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Sotomayor faces senators, hot issues

US Supreme Court nominee, justice Sonia Sotomayor, will face 19 senators at a confirmation hearing in her journey to become the first female Hispanic judge at the court.

user iconThe New Lawyer 02 June 2009 The Bar
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US Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, will face 19 senators at a confirmation hearing in her journey to become the first female Hispanic judge at the court. 

The senators, each with a set of issues and criteria, and many far removed from the day-to-day work of a justice, have comprised a predictable menu of issues for Sotomayor to comment on, reports the National Law Journal.

Sotomayor's own record will add to the list. In a panel discussion in 2005, she said that the appeals court is "where policy is made." She went on to say, "I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it." 


In a 2001 speech, the judge said: "I 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."

Both statements will come in for senate scrutiny. Judges are in practice, the arbiters of policy; they should not be its architects. Race and gender are important markers, but to imply a natural superiority sounds like prejudice they claim.

A confirmation hearing, some have said, is a window on the legal debates of the day, but some claim it doesn’t allow enough discussion. Key issues affecting businesses, workers, consumers, criminal defendants and others generally are ignored because senators are do not earn political points by raising them, according to lawyers and scholars. 

Those issues, however, will have a profound impact on more people than will most of the predictable menu items. Indeed, Sotomayor's views on those issues would be more predictive of her role as a Supreme Court Justice. 

However, senators do not get to choose the justices for the Supreme Court, that choice is given to the President, Barack Obama. All indications at this point are that Sotomayor represents a responsible choice.

Born to Puerto Rican immigrants, Sotomayor was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was only eight. When she was nine, she lost her father. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University, winning the school's top academic honour. She made editor of the Yale Law Review.

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed Sotomayor to the US District Court. In 1998, she was elevated to the US Court of Appeals by appointment of President Bill Clinton, and with the votes of 25 Republican senators. 

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