Few things make me more nervous than the morning of a job interview. 

I can’t relax. I wake up too early and change my outfit three or four times. I forget how to iron and by the time I get there it takes a strong coffee for me to look alert.

So it’s with huge admiration that I watch Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s calm and poised exterior as she fronts up to what is potentially the longest, most in-depth and important interview of her life.

As President Obama’s pick to replace retiring Justice David Souter in the Supreme Court, Sotomayor has to pass through a confirmation hearing to win approval from the US Senate. 

Expected to cover issues from race to religion and gun rights, a confirmation hearing is basically an intense Q & A session that allows the Senate to confirm Sotomayor’s impartiality and therefore suitability for the role of justice.

Requiring hours of preparation, the hearing is considered to be an arduous and grueling experience for nominees. Twelve people are said to have been rejected by the Senate since the process began in 1955.

Sotomayor’s Latino background is at the heart of her hearing. 

With her admission that a “wise Latina woman ….can reach a better decision than…a white man,” and her role in upholding a decision to throw out testing results in which 19 white fire fighters and one Hispanic would have been promoted, but no African-Americans, have already sparked heated discussion within the Senate.

If confirmed she will become the first Hispanic American to become a justice of the Supreme Court. 

Here are five reasons why she deserves it.

1. As a Hispanic American woman she will make history

Born in the South Bronx, Sotomayor was raised in a housing project by her Puerto Rican immigrant parents. She started her education at a local public school but her intellect and hard work earned her scholarships for an Ivy League education.

If her position is confirmed she will not only become the first Hispanic American to become a Supreme Court justice she will also be the third woman justice in history.

2. She was hand-picked by Obama

At Sotomayor’s nomination in May,  President Obama was reported to have said that there are ‘fewer serious or more consequential decisions’ for a President than his selection of supreme court judge.’

He praised Sotomayor’s ‘impressive and meaningful credentials’ but said it was the weight of her personal experiences that set her apart. 

Presidents are awarded the right to nominate a Supreme Court judge under Article 2 of the United States constitution. However it will take a majority vote in the Senate to confirm the appointment.

3. She’s accountable

Described by CNN as a ‘delicate dance’ the confirmation hearings are a series of interviews with Sotomayor designed to give the Senate a firmer understanding of her judicial preferences. Some critics believe the hearings are a waste of time, that they are too drawn out and would work better without the active participation of the nominee. 

Once confirmed, Sotomayor’s position as a Supreme Court justice will be a lifetime appointment.

4. Her credentials are outstanding

Sotomayor has spent 17 years on the federal bench and worked at every level of the US legal system. According to the New York Times her combined work experiences mean she has been a judge longer than anyone who has “gone onto the Supreme Court in 100 years.”

She was promoted, at separate times by both sides of American politics; to the US District Court by George W Bush and the Federal Court of Appeals by Bill Clinton.

5.    She’s had a serious background check and an impressive set of references

The Brennan Center for Justice, part of New York University Law School analysed 1,194 constitutional cases decided during Judge Sotomayor’s tenure.

As well as President Obama’s sealed stamp of approval Sotomayor comes highly recommended by no less than 1000 law professors. 

You can follow live coverage of the hearing.

 

 

 

 

Most commented

32 comments

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    • Barge says:

      08:06am | 15/07/09

      A white male nominee who showed so much prejudice would not even be considered.

    • Eric says:

      08:42am | 15/07/09

      So you’re willing to support a racist and sexist judge.

      Shame on you.

    • Pat says:

      08:58am | 15/07/09

      Those misguided efforts to paint Sotomayor as a racist/sexist represent the last lame game of right wing wingnuts. She will be confirmed. Hooray.

    • Ben says:

      09:11am | 15/07/09

      I do not believe Sonia’s comments constitute prejudice, sexism or racism. What I believe was implied is that her life experiences give her a different point of view to that of a middle class white man.  She has not stated that she is pro woman / pro Hispanic / anti man / anti white. She is just different to the norm. To claim she is prejudiced / sexist / racist on the basis of what is in this article is either ignorant or just argumentative.

    • iansand says:

      09:11am | 15/07/09

      One of the flaws in the approval process is the minute dissection of throwaway lines made almost a decade ago in non-judicial contexts.  If she had said that judges bring their experience of life to the bench, and that experience affects the process of decision making there would be no controversy.  Her problem is that she has personalised that statement.

      If it was possible to discern bias and discrimination in her judicial pronouncements there would be an entirely more serious problem.  Judges are human beings and have opinions.  It is only when those opinions intrude into the judicial process that there is a problem.  And before the slavering hordes bring up the firefighter case, she was apparently in a majority in that case.  That means that at least one other judge of indeterminate sex and indeterminate national background agreed with her.

    • Eric says:

      09:17am | 15/07/09

      There’s nothing “lame” about telling the truth.

      Sotomayor repeatedly said that “a wise Latina would make a better decision than a white male judge”. That’s blatant racism and sexism right there, of the sort that cost Harvard President Larry Summers his job.

      Furthermore, her response to questioning on this issue at the confirmation hearings has been less than satisfactory.

      If Sotomayor is confirmed, it will show that a racist, sexist judge can be appointed purely because of her race and gender. Left-wingers have become what they claim to despise—bigots.

    • Peter says:

      09:20am | 15/07/09

      Give the full quote: “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.”

      OK, now let’s see if you would accept these:

      “I would hope that a wise Latino man with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white woman who hasn’t lived that life.”

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

      The idea is that Latinos have a dual experience that whites don’t have and that, all things being equal, they’ll be able to pull from that experience and see things that whites don’t. The problem with this reasoning is it implicitly accepts the logic (made for years by white racists) that there is something essential and unifying running through all people of a particular race, everywhere.

      She is a racist.  That does not disqualify her from the Supreme Court, given the people who have been on the court over the years.  But she is still a racist.

    • Pat says:

      09:42am | 15/07/09

      Peter you say that “The idea is that Latinos have a dual experience that whites dont have…” What are you talking about? There is no dual experience, Sotomayor or any Latino, Women, even white men have no experience of being a race, colour, gender that they arent. Unless you consider transexuals etc. Now that would be a confirmation to remember. Again hooray for Sotomayor who will be confirmed.

    • Eric says:

      09:58am | 15/07/09

      The fact remains that Sotomayor claimed, on repeated occasions, that being a Latino woman would make her a *better* judge than a white man. Spin it as much as you like, it’s a sexist statement and there are no two ways about it.

      It wasn’t a throw-away line (even though white males have lost their jobs for a throw-away)—it was a significant point in several speeches she made over the years. This displays a consistently sexist and racist atitude.

      If a white man had said something similar, he would be ruked out for any senior judicial position. The only reason Sotomayor still has a chance, and a good one, is the inherent racism and sexism of her left-wing supporters.

    • Pat says:

      10:13am | 15/07/09

      The argument that Sotomayor is a sexist/racist is lame is because it is not based on “repeated” comments as Eric is so desparate to believe. It is lame because she is a singularly well qualified candidate that can only be attacked by right wing wing nuts because she is a woman and a latino. It is lame because it is not going to work. The only lamer argument I have had the misfortune to come across Eric is yours that the left is “inherently” racist and sexist. Racist/sexists dont vote left mate. Oh and I do feel sorry for all those white men who daily suffer the trials and tribulations of an anti white/ anti man society. Wherever that happens to be.

    • Peter says:

      10:21am | 15/07/09

      Pat, it is not me - but Sotomayor - who makes the explicit claim for a ‘dual experience’.  We all struggle with our humanity, and that provides us with our experience. 

      But she suggests that simply by being a Latina grants an experiential difference which makes such a candidate axiomatically better (note: not different, but better) at fulfilling their judicial role.

      Thus: “I am not merely human, but female, and a Latina”. 

      Or, to indulge in a bit of methaphor: “We all have plates, but I have three pancakes on mine, and you have only one on yours”.

    • pat says:

      10:41am | 15/07/09

      I like the metaphor Peter. But and isnt there always a but. I believe her experience as a latina woman does make her a ‘better’ qualified candidate on a bench, that apart from a few exceptions is white men. I believe a latina woman has a better understanding of bigotry than white men. To argue that she is a racist because she also believes so is to believe that bigotry has no history.

    • Peter says:

      10:42am | 15/07/09

      Moreover, in the same speech, Sotomayor also says this:

      “Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement.”

      Let’s have that again: “I am also not so sure that I agree with that statement”.

      In other words, Sotomayor makes an EXPLICIT refution of the notion espoused by Sandra Day O’Connor that men and women are equally capable at judicial reasoning.  In Sotomayor’s worldview, the woman makes the BETTER decision - unless of course, she is suggesting that ‘the wise old woman’ would make a worse decision?  I think not.

      No, Sotomayor’s view is not of the equality of humanity, but the triumph of identity politics.  She sees what divides us, not what unites us.  She is a racist and a sexist, but in the eyes of the fashionable Left it is ‘good’ racism and sexism.

    • Ben from Perth says:

      10:59am | 15/07/09

      Idealistic as it may have been The Supremes was one of the best episodes in The West Wing series.

      Glenn Close was on fire.

    • Peter says:

      11:02am | 15/07/09

      Pat - let’s run your view through using black Americans as an example:

      “I believe his experience as a black man does make him a ‘better’ qualified candidate on a bench, that apart from a few exceptions is white men. I believe a black man has a better understanding of bigotry than white men. To argue that he is a racist because he also believes so is to believe that bigotry has no history. “

      So… I suppose you were a strong supporter of Clarence Thomas’ nomination for the SCOTUS?

      Let’s cut to the truth: Sotomayor was nominated not because she had the finest legal mind in America, or because she was a woman, or because she was a Latina, but because she was a liberal and will likely be a judical activist. 

      The fact that she was also a female and Latina just happens to nicely dovetail with the inherently racist and sexist ‘identity politics’ beloved by the US Democrats, including Saint Obama of Chicago.

    • pat says:

      11:04am | 15/07/09

      Sotomayor is not making a refutation of the idea that men and women are equally capable of judicial reasoning, merely that they may reach different conclusions despite their wisdom. The attack on Sotomayor as a racist and sexist has been abandoned by republicans - Lindsey Graham - at her hearing as a futile character assisination that is now the domain of El Rushbo, Sean Hannity and you Peter as part of the impotent and self pitying right.

    • iansand says:

      11:07am | 15/07/09

      Peter @ 10:42 “she is suggesting that ‘the wise old woman’ would make a worse decision”  Selective quotation is fun, isn’t it?  Fun but misleading.

    • Pat says:

      11:20am | 15/07/09

      Clarence Thomas, and Im sorry Pete I am not armed with any obiter dictums to reference this, but I did hear that Thomas thought his identity was important to his appointment. And yes lets cut to the truth you dont oppose Sotomayors appointment because she is a racist or sexist but because she is a liberal, like Souter who she is replacing. And Saint Obama,  Peter really,  if you didnt spend so much time sulking in the corner with the other fox wing nuts you may become - dare I say it. Fashionable.

    • iansand says:

      11:24am | 15/07/09

      I went to the speech.  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/us/politics/15judge.text.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1  I don’t know if the following paragraphs make a difference to the bit that was selectively quoted or not.  To me, what she said (given a bit of context) is fairly unexceptionable, if not blindingly obvious.  Judges do bring their experience of life to the bench.

      “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, 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.

      Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

      However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”

    • pat says:

      11:27am | 15/07/09

      Clarence Thomas, and I am not armed with any obiter dictums to reference this, sorry Pete, has said that his identiy was important to his appointment. And lets cut to the truth - you dont oppose Sotomayor because she is a racist but because she is a liberal. And “Saint” Obama, Peter,  please, if you didnt spend so much time sulking in the corner with the rest of the fox cast, you may become. dare I say it. Fashionable

    • Richard says:

      11:40am | 15/07/09

      How on earth is all this relevant to Australia?  I thought this site was going to encourage discussion and debate on topical issues relevant to this country, but it has been a severe disappointment, with its mixture of pop culture, shallow facetiousness and irrelevant foreign stuff like this.  Lift your game, “The Punch”.

    • Tim says:

      11:42am | 15/07/09

      “Sotomayor is not making a refutation of the idea that men and women are equally capable of judicial reasoning, merely that they may reach different conclusions despite their wisdom. “

      Exactly, Pat. Contrary to what many people think, the courts don’t mechanically apply the law. Even if they wanted to, the personal experiences and biases of the judges will show through - otherwise there would never be split decisions.

      Peter you have a point about her ‘better decision’ comment. Although I think Sotomayor is generally a good candidate, there is no doubt that the reverse comment from a white male would have provoked outrage. However, a judge should be picked on the basis of their judicial decisions, not on throwaway comments. From my (admittedly limited) reading of her judgments, she seems eminently qualified for the job. More to the point, I haven’t seen any evidence of white males (or others) who would be *more* qualified.

      Finally, I’d just like to add that two of the three ‘reasons’ in the article are completely bogus (again, despite the fact that I generally support the nomination) and betray a complete misunderstanding of the nomination system:
      2 - all SCOTUS judges are ‘hand-picked’ by the president of the day. That’s hardly a reason to confirm them (otherwise Harriet Miers should also have been confirmed).
      3 - again, all SCOTUS judges go throught the confirmation process. It doesn’t favour one candidate over another.

      Be good if Lucy had some idea of what she was talking about. I could also add that qualifications should be reason #1, not #4 - making history is fine, but only with a qualified candidate.

    • Razor says:

      01:11pm | 15/07/09

      Sotomayor clealry stated that she was better because she is a Latino Women and that is a racist and sexist statement.  If a white person, let alone a white male, said that they would be crucified.

      That said, I am deeply dissappointed in this appointment as she is clearly not a towering intellect of constitutional jurisprudence.  There are many better qualified candidates who have been passed over for what appears to clearly be an affirmative action appointment.  This will weaken the US of A and that is bad for Australia and all western democratic Nations.

    • pat says:

      01:17pm | 15/07/09

      Richard, your clearly not as interesting as Peter but as he seems to have gone awol, hes probably trawling through Repug - oh I mean Repub Party media releases for the latest fabrications about Sotomayor, I will take exception to the ‘irrelavant foreign stuff”. The argument the right have developed of reverse racism occupies a place in Australian political discourse as well and its role is as toxic. Having been beaten with the racist stick for so many years - it probably has somehing to do with preferencing one nation, anti muslim hysteria etc its trying to throw it back as if we are all equally racist now. Like telling a black slave he is racist because he hates his white master.

    • Richard says:

      01:21pm | 15/07/09

      Pat - I object to your comment, because I spelt “irrelevant” correctly.

    • pat says:

      01:42pm | 15/07/09

      Richard - Why are you still reading this column - arent there more “aussie” things for you to gripe about? Razor - clearly this name has nothing to do with your mind. Sotomayor clearly said nothing of the sort - you love flogging a dead horse dont you. If youd bothered to read - perhaps you did and it just got cut off by that razor like mind - the previous comments, you wouldnt now sound like the robo right sound box you probably aspire to be. As for her qualifications anyone who had read her cv - and the confirmation hearings have done this several times, would know she is. Peter your side is letting you down.

    • MR says:

      02:13pm | 15/07/09

      That said, I am deeply dissappointed in this appointment as she is clearly not a towering intellect of constitutional jurisprudence.

      Pathetic Razor - you clearly know nothing about Sotomayor.  Read the article again - her credentials are impeccable.  As an Ivy League scholarship holder recommended by 1000 law professors across the country I think she can quite clearly lay claim to being an extremely capable jurist.

      There are many better qualified candidates who have been passed over for what appears to clearly be an affirmative action appointment.

      Utter bull.  Who, exactly, do you believe was better qualified?  I don’t believe that you know of even one, let alone ‘many’. 

      Stop regurgitating far-right talking points.  You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

    • Cypress Lake High alumni 79' says:

      02:31pm | 15/07/09

      I went to High School in Florida in 1979 and everything waaaaaay back then was written in English and Spainish because of the high hispanic population. I cannot believe it has taken this long for the US to have its first Hispanic American to make the bench of the Supreme Court.

    • Eric says:

      08:17am | 16/07/09

      Let us not forget other indications of Sotomayor’s racism.

      Her decision in the Ricci case was clearly racist. That decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

      And Sotomayor has given speeches at meetings of a racist group—“La Raza”. This group is exclusive to Latin Americans, and its name literally translates as “The Race”.

      Imagine the equivalent—a white judge making speeches at meetings of a whites-only group called “The Race”!

      Only loopy lefties could possibly imagine this woman is not racist.

    • Pat says:

      09:19am | 16/07/09

      Eric, dont bother she is going to be confirmed. Even the repubilcans at the confirmation hearing have accepted this. Why is it that you so desparately want to believe that she is a racist? Is it to justify your own bigotry?

    • Eric says:

      10:01am | 16/07/09

      Pat, why are you so desperate to deny Sotomayor’s bias? Is it because you’re a racist too?

    • pat says:

      11:22am | 16/07/09

      Eric I recommend that you read all the previous comments - Your so dumb that I cannot believe you are real person - You believe that a racist is going to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Do you also believe in the bogey man? Big foot? The earth is flat?

 

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