Thursday, September 25th — Sonia Sotomayor

September 26, 2008

Today I Learned…

…about Sonia Sotomayor.  The following is a quote from the October issue of Esquire, which I bought because it has a super-cool electronic ink cover.  It’s their 75th anniversary issue, and the main article profiles their list of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.

If Obama becomes president, his first nominee to the Supreme Court will likely be Sonia Sotomayor.  As a Hispanic woman with 16 years of court experience, Sotomayor would slay two of the court’s lack-of-diversity birds with one swift stone.  “These are criteria that matter these days.  Even Laura Bush was disappointed that her husband didn’t name a woman toreplace Sandra Day O’Connor,” says Mark Tushnet, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Harvard.  And because Sotomayor has a reputation for staying behind the scenes and sits on a federal bench known for its centrism, it’s likely that she would be able to garner a two-thirds majority in the Senate, even if the Democrats only control an estimated 55 or so seats.  Plus there’s an insurance measure if the nomination gets too politicized publically: Sotomayor was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush.  Says Tushmet, “If you’re a Democratic strategist, you can gin up ads that say, ‘She was good enough for George H. W. Bush.  Why isn’t she good enough for Mitch McConnell?'”

In her rulings, Sotomayor has often shown suspicion of bloated government and corporate power.  She’s offered a reinterpretation of copyright law, ruled in favor of public access to private information, and in her most famous decision, sided with labor in the Major League Baseball strike of 1995.  More than anything else, she is seen as a realist.  With a likely 20 years ahead on the bench, she’ll have plenty of time to impart her realist philosophy.


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