Obama nominates Hispanic woman to Supreme Court

May 27th, 2009 - 12:33 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 26 (DPA) President Barack Obama nominated federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court Tuesday, making her the first person of Hispanic origin chosen to serve on the country’s highest court.
Sotomayor, who now has to be approved by the US Senate, would replace Justice David Souter to become the second woman on the nine-member court and just the third female ever on the Supreme Court.

Viewed as one of the most important and long-lasting decisions made by a US president, Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination was welcomed by Hispanic groups that had lobbied hard for someone from their ethnic background to be given a spot on the court.

Sotomayor, 54, has spent most of her career in the US judicial system and holds degrees from Princeton and Yale University. She climbed up from humble origins in New York’s South Bronx. Her parents emigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico during World War II.

Obama touted her combination of judicial and real-life experience. Sotomayor’s career “has given her not only a sweeping overview of the American judicial system, but a practical understanding of how the law works in the everyday lives of the American people.”

Sotomayor was first appointed to the federal courts in 1992 by Republican former president George HW Bush. She was promoted in 1998 by Democratic former president Bill Clinton to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, where she still presides.

Sotomayor called the nomination “the most humbling honour of my life.” As a justice, she said she would “strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government.”

Considered a moderate left-leaning judge, some critics have pointed to Sotomayor’s past suggestion that judges play a role in public policy - a unacceptable position for conservatives who believe the judiciary should strictly interpret the US Constitution.

“We will thoroughly examine her record to ensure that 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,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s top

Republican, said in a statement.

One of her more controversial decisions involved a Connecticut fire department that had cancelled a round of promotions because no African-Americans had qualified. Sotomayor ruled against a group of white firefighters who had protested in 2008, and the case is now pending before the Supreme Court that she might be joining.

Another famous ruling came in April 1995 on the professional sport of baseball, when she issued an injunction against baseball club owners, effectively putting an end to a nearly eight-month-old strike.

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