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President Obama Selects Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a Judge with a Common Touch and Extensive Judicial Experience, to Replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court

Last Saturday, President Barack Obama said that he wanted a Supreme Court nominee that had a “common touch” and empathy, who could “stand in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living."
 
He fulfilled that promise on May 26 with his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as his nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the United States Supreme Court.
 
Judge Sotomayor was born of Puerto Rican descent in the Bronx, New York City. Her father passed away when she was 9 years old, and she was raised in a Bronx housing project by her mother, a nurse in a methadone clinic. She was inspired to become a judge by an episode of the Perry Mason show that she saw when she was 10 years old. In announcing her nomination, President Obama said that “She has never forgotten where she began,” and Judge Sotomayor responded that her goal has been to be viewed as an “ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities.”
 
Judge Sotomayor graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School. Prior to assuming the bench, she was in private practice in New York City and served as an assistant district attorney for New York County. In 1992 she was nominated by President George Bush to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and she was elevated to the Second Circuit by President Clinton in 1998.
 
Because all of the present justices of the Supreme Court had come from judicial backgrounds, President Obama had considered nominating an attorney who had a non-judicial background. While he did not go that route, he did meet his goal of increasing the diversity on the Court, selecting the third woman and first Hispanic for the Court.
 
Although Judge Sotomayor has not authored any significant opinions on abortion, which is often the most contentious topic in Senate confirmation hearings, she has authored a number of high profile opinions. She is probably best known for her 1995 decision involving the litigation between Major League Baseball’s owners and players, Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Comm., 880 F. Supp. 246 (S.D.N.Y. 1995), in which she found that the owners had engaged in unfair labor practices. She has ruled on cases involving the movie Philadelphia in Cavagnuolo v. Rudin, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2025 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 1996) and the television show Seinfeld in Castle Rock Entertainment v. Carol Publ. Group, 955 F. Supp. 260 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), ordered the release of the suicide note of Clinton Presidential Counselor Vince Foster in Dow Jones & Co. v. United States Dep't of Justice, 880 F. Supp. 145 (S.D.N.Y. 1995), and upheld the clause in the National Football League’s labor collective bargaining agreement that prohibited the drafting of college underclassmen in Clarett v. NFL, 369 F.3d 124 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2004).
 
A sampling of recent constitutional decisions by Judge Sotomayor includes the upholding of a security and search policy for passenger ferries under the Maritime Transportation Security Act in Cassidy v. Chertoff, 471 F.3d 67, 70 (2d Cir. Vt. 2006), the denial of qualified immunity to certain state and local officials in litigation involving a demonstration by Native Americans along an Interstate highway in Papineau v. Parmley, 465 F.3d 46 (2d Cir. 2006), the finding that a murder defendant was not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus because he did not have an absolute right to confer with his attorney during the midday recesses in his trial in Serrano v. Fischer, 412 F.3d 292 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2005), and a ruling that a Muslim inmate had a 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 civil rights claim that survived summary judgment in an action that challenged a prison’s refusal to serve the inmate a particular religious meal in Ford v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 582 (2d Cir. N.Y. 2003).
 
Although Republicans in the Senate will scrutinize Judge Sotomayor’s selection, her nomination is expected to be approved. She was first appointed to the bench by a Republican president, has been approved twice by the Senate, and was approved 67-29 by a Republican controlled Senate to her present position in 1998.