Sonia Sotomayor

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Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor official.jpg
Current Court Information:
Supreme Court of the United States
Title:   Associate Justice
Service:
Appointed by:   Barack Obama
Approval vote:   68-31
Active:   8/6/2009-present
Preceded by:   David Souter
Past post:   Second Circuit
Past term:   1998-2009
Past position:   Seat #13
Past post 2:   Southern District of New York
Past term 2:   1992-1998
Past position 2:   Seat #3
Personal History
Born:   June 25, 1954
Hometown:   New York (Bronx), NY
Undergraduate:   Princeton U., B.A., 1976
Law School:   Yale Law, J.D., 1979



Sonia Sotomayor is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was the first nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States by President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States to fill the seat of the retiring David Souter. Judge Sotomayor was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 6, 2009 on a super majority 68-31 vote.[1][2]

Sotomayor is only the third woman to serve on the Supreme Court (after O'Connor and Ginsburg) and one of three current female Justices. Sotomayor has the distinction of serving as the first Hispanic Justice. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of her confirmation on July 28, 2009 in a 13-6 vote with one Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham, voting in favor.[3][4]

Judicial philosophy

Sotomayor has been described as both outspoken and "quite brash" on the bench characteristics that could help her carve out a place on the nation's highest court.[5][6]

Sotomayor's confirmation hearings were considered to be something of a formality as Democrats had enough votes to circumvent any Republican attempts to block her confirmation.[7][8]

Early life and education

Sonia Sotomayor was born on June 25, 1954 in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York and both of her parents were born in Puerto Rico.[9][6][10]

Sotomayor graduated valedictorian from Cardinal Spellman High School, a private Catholic school in New York City in 1972.[11] At the time of her confirmation, Sotomayor was the sixth sitting Catholic on the court, alongside Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.[12][13]

Education

Princeton University

Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a bachelor's degree in History in 1976. While at Princeton, she received the M. Taylor Pyne Honor Prize.[14][15] Sotomayor wrote her senior thesis on "The Impact of the Life of Luis Munoz Marin on the Political and Economic History of Puerto Rico, 1930-1975."[16][17]

Yale Law School

Upon graduating Princeton University, Sotomayor would attend Yale Law School, where she was awarded her Juris Doctor degree in 1979.[18] She co-chaired the Latin American and Native American Students Association and was published in the Yale Law Journal (where she served as an editor) with the note "Statehood and the Equal Footing Doctrine: The Case for Puerto Rican Seabed Rights" which, as the title suggests, analyzed issues regarding Puerto Rico's ability to maintain rights to its seabed if it pursued statehood.[19][20][6]

Professional career

Assistant District Attorney

Sotomayor joined the office of Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau in 1979. She served as an Assistant District Attorney from 1979 until entering private practice in 1984. One of Sotomayor's former colleagues said, "I think she wanted to make sure that her cases were solid and that she was dispensing justice before just locking someone up or putting them away, as opposed to being an overzealous prosecutor who believed that if you were arrested you were automatically guilty.[21][22]

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee during Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, New York County District Attorney Morgenthau recounted Assistant District Attorney Sotomayor's time in his office.[23]

During her confirmation hearing, Morgenthua described Sotomayor as:

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

...one of the brightest and most mature, hard-working, standout who was marked for rapid advancement.[23]

He also said:

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

Assistant District Attorney Sotomayor soon developed a reputation. Unlike many prosecutors, she simply would not be pushed around by judges or by attorneys. Some judges were eager to dispose of cases cheaply to clear their calendars. ADA Sotomayor instead fought for the right conclusion in each case.[23]

Major cases as a prosecutor

  • child pornography case where two men were convicted
  • first homicide prosecution of the "Tarzen Murderer"[24]
  • conviction of one of three defendants in a housing project shooting[21][25]

Private practice

In 1984, Sotomayor left Morgenthau's office to enter private practice. She would spend the next eight years (1984-1992) as a civil attorney with the New York City law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. From April 1984 to December 1987, Sotomayor was an associate with the firm, making partner in 1988.[26]

During her time in private practice, Sotomayor would also run a solo practice, Sotomayor & Associates, out of her Brooklyn apartment from 1983 to 1986. This did, in fact, overlap her time as an assistant district attorney by approximately one year. Little is know about Sotomayor & Associates other than what the judge herself answered in her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.[26][[ According to Sotomayor, the practice was an outlet to help "family and friends in their real estate, business and estate planning decisions."[27] Some questions were raised about Sotomayor's solo practice, such as: why she added the "& Associates" when she was practicing solo, why she never registered the business, whether or not she was compensated for her services while also drawing a check from New York County and the exact time frame of the practice, but there is no evidence that she did anything illegal or technically unethical.[27]

Sotomayor's private practice years would mark her last as an attorney as she joined the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York as a federal district judge in 1992.[18]

Southern District of New York

Sonia Sotomayor served as a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1992 until rising to the bench of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998.

Nomination and Confirmation

On the recommendation of U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Sotomayor was nominated to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H.W. Bush on November 27, 1991 to a seat vacated by John Walker.

Her appointment was held up for nearly a year under the 'anonymous hold' loophole in the Senate confirmation process despite approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee and a "Qualified" rating by the American Bar Association.[28][29] Sotomayor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 11, 1992 with the unanimous consent of the Senate, receiving her commission on August 12, 1992. When she joined the court, she was its youngest judge.[30]

CLICK HERE for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation materials from 1992.

Notable cases

As a federal district judge, Sotomayor did not hear many controversial cases and kept a regularly low profile with regard to constitutional issues. She did gain notoriety after several high profile rulings regarding the Major League Baseball strike of 1994, the Wall Street Journal's publishing of the controversial "suicide note" left by former Clinton White House counsel Vince Foster and copyright issues related to a trivia book about the television show Seinfeld. As a federal district judge, Sotomayor had one of her decisions overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States.






Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Sonia Sotomayor served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998 until her confirmation as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 2009.

Nomination and Confirmation

On the recommendation of U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Sotomayor was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President Bill Clinton on June 25, 1997 to a seat vacated by Daniel Mahoney. Again, Sotomayor fell victim to politics when her appointment was held up for nearly six months after a March 1998 approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee as Republicans were concerned she would be President Clinton's choice as a Supreme Court Justice.[44] Sotomayor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 2, 1998 on a super majority 67-29-2 vote, receiving her commission on October 7, 1998.[45]

A substantial majority of judicial evaluators at the American Bar Association ranked Sotomayor in 1997 as "well qualified" for a position on the federal appellate bench, while a minority of evaluators found her "qualified."[46]

In filling out her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire, Sotomayor wrote that "judges must be extraordinarily sensitive to the impact of their decisions and function within, and respectful of, the Constitution."[22]

For Justice Sotomayor's Confirmation Materials from 1998, visit the Sotomayor Collection at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library at this link.

Notables cases on the Second Circuit

During more than a decade as a circuit court judge, Sotomayor has heard appeals on more than 3,000 cases and wrote in excess of 380 opinions for the majority. She had six of those decisions reviewed by the United States Supreme Court with four of them overturned and two upheld. Studies find her judgeship to have been moderate with respect to political leanings. A study of her 226 majority opinions from 2001 to 2009 found that 38% of her opinions could be clearly defined as liberal in nature with 49% of them falling clearly on the conservative end of the spectrum. She tends to be more conservative in criminal cases and tends to be more liberal in her dissenting opinions according to studies.[47][22]






Supreme Court of the United States

On Tuesday, May 26, 2009, President Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States to fill the seat of Justice David Souter. Sotomayor was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 6, 2009 on a super majority 68-31 vote.[64][65][1][66]

Nomination and Confirmation

Sotomayor's name had initially emerged as a potential Supreme Court nominee in early February 2009 when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's diagnosis of early stage colon cancer was announced.[67] When David Souter announced his retirement, Sotomayor's name went from "a contender" to one of the names considered to clearly be on Obama's short list for a nomination.[68][6]

Sotomayor joining the Court was not expected to shift the ideological balance of power on the court, since she was considered a liberal jurist who was expected to fill the seat of another reliably liberal vote in David Souter.[6]

Criticism of previous rulings

Conservative concerns

Her most high-profile and controversial ruling prior to her Supreme Court appointment was the affirmative action case Ricci v. DeStefano. For more on this ruling, see Notable cases on the Second Circuit. This ruling led some conservative Republicans in the United States Senate to label Sotomayor as a judicial activist.[6][49][69][70][55][71][58]

Liberal concerns

Interestingly, liberal groups expressed concerns of their own over Sotomayor's lack of strong rulings in support of liberal causes. Specifically, they have expressed concern over one ruling on abortion in Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush in which she ruled in favor of the Bush administration's right to deny federal aid to foreign organizations that support or provide abortions.[72][6]

Another ruling that liberals criticized was U.S. v. Falso, a child pornography case in which Sotomayor sided with police despite defense claims that Falso's Fourth Amendment rights were violated because the police did not have probable cause to search his home. Sotomayor applied a "good faith exception" noting that police had obtained a warrant based on prior bad acts and regular e-mails received from a child pornography website.[73][74]

As the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, Sotomayor made history with her confirmation on August 6, 2009. She is only the third woman to serve on the nation's highest court.[6][1][75]

CLICK HERE for Judge Sotomayor's confirmation materials from 2009.

Oath of office

Justice Sotomayor took the Constitutional and Judicial Oaths of Office on August 8, 2009, which were administered by Chief Justice John Roberts.[76]

Speeches

2005 Duke University panel


Court of Appeals policy making comment

In a political slip-of-the-tongue during a 2005 visit to Duke University, Sotomayor said that "a court of appeals is where policy is made." She was quick to qualify the remark when she said, "I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don't 'make law. OK. I know. I'm not promoting it. I'm not advocating it."[77] Sotomayor made it abundantly clear during her confirmation hearings that she did not want to be viewed as a judicial activist. In her opening statement, she declared her judicial philosophy to be "fidelity to the law." "The task of a judge is not to make law. It is to apply the law."[57]

2003 University of Indiana speech

In a 2003 lecture before a criminal law class at the University of Indiana School of Law, Sotomayor inadvertently defended the Bush Administration's right to hold enemy combatants to a different set of legal standards than American citizens. "So we have suspected enemy combatants detained in secret and given different process than criminals. One can certainly justify that type of detention under precedents and current law."[78] Sotomayor would go on to raise questions as to the limits of encroachment on the civil liberties of Americans in her speech, but she continued to limit her opinions to law and precedent.[79]

To read the whole speech, see: The New York Times, "Judge Sotomayor's 2003 Lecture at Indiana Law School".

2001 UC Berkeley speech

In a 2001 speech at the University of California at Berkeley, Sotomayor acknowledged that a judge's gender and ethnic background "may and will make a difference in our judging." During her remarks, she said "Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and a wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am also not sure that I agree with the statement ... I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."[80] Sotomayor's remarks came during a U.C. Berkeley School of Law symposium titled Raising the Bar: Latino and Latina Presence in the Judiciary and Struggles for Representation.[6][77][81][58]

To read the full speech, see: UC Berkeley News, 2001 Speech: A Latina judge's voice.

See also

External links


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Washington Post, "Sotomyaor Wins Confirmation," August 7, 2009
  2. CNN.com, "Senate confirms Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court," August 6, 2009
  3. The New York Times, "Senate Panel Endorses Sotomayor in 13-6 Vote," July 28, 2009
  4. Washington Post, "Senate Panel Votes 13-6 in Favor of Sotomayor," July 28, 2009
  5. Washington Post, "N.Y. Federal Judge Likely on Shortlist," May 7, 2009
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Time Magazine, "Sonia Sotomayor: A Justice Like No Other," May 28, 2009
  7. BBC News, "Senate ends Sotomayor questioning," July 16, 2009
  8. Fox News, "'Meltdown'-Proof? Sotomayor's Confirmation Assured?," July 14, 2009
  9. New York Times, "In Puerto Rico, Supreme Court Pick With Island Roots Becomes a Superstar," May 29, 2009
  10. New York Times, "A Breakthrough Judge: What She Always Wanted," September 25, 1992
  11. Cardinal Spellman High Schoo, "Spellman Grad U.S. Supreme Court Nominee"
  12. Boston.com, "Sotomayor would be sixth Catholic Justice," May 26, 2009
  13. Adherents.com, Religious Affiliation of the U.S. Supreme Court
  14. Politico, "Princeton University holds the key to understanding Sonia Sotomayor," May 29, 2009
  15. The Daily Princetonian, "Latin student groups assail university hiring performance," April 22, 1974
  16. "Princeton alumna, trustee nominated to Supreme Court," May 26, 2009
  17. Preface to Sonia Sotomayor's Princeton University Senior Thesis: "The Impact of the Life of Luis Munoz Marin on the Political and Economic History of Puerto Rico, 1930-1975."
  18. 18.0 18.1 Biography of Sonia Sotomayor from the Federal Judicial Center
  19. Yale Law Journal, Sonia Sotomayor's Note," May 27, 2009
  20. Sonia Sotomayor's Yale Law Journal Note "Statehood and the Equal Footing Doctrine: The Case for Puerto Rican Seabed Rights," April 1979
  21. 21.0 21.1 New York Times, "Sotomayor Is Recalled as a Driven Rookie Prosecutor," June 7, 2009Scroll to page 2
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 The New York Times, "Woman in the News - Sotomayor, a Trailblazer and a Dreamer," May 27, 2009
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Washington Post, Transcript of District Attorney of New York County Robert Morgentha at Judge Sotomayor's Confirmation Hearings, July 16, 2009
  24. CNN.com, "Sotomayor learned the ropes on 'Tarzan case," July 28, 2009
  25. National Public Radio, "Sotomayor's Real-World Schooling in Law and Order," June 9, 2009
  26. 26.0 26.1 File:Sotomayor Questionnaire.pdf
  27. 27.0 27.1 The New York Times, "Little Information Given About Solo Law Practice Run by Sotomayor in the '80s," July 7, 2009
  28. The New York Times, "4 Women Delayed in Rise to the Bench," July 14, 1992
  29. 'The 'New York Times, "Update; A Small Whittling Down Of Federal Bench Vacancies," August 16, 1992
  30. Dissenting Justice, "Hatchet Job: Jeffrey Rosen's Utterly Bankrupt Analysis of Judge Sonia Sotomayor," May 4, 2009
  31. CASTLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT, INC. v. CAROL PUBLISHING GROUP, 150 F.3d 132 (2nd Cir. 1998) (LOISLAW)
  32. Castle Rock Entertainment, Inc. v. Carol Publishing Group, Inc. and Beth B. Golub at Justia.com
  33. 33.0 33.1 CNN, "Sotomayor's resume, record on notable cases"
  34. New York Times Company Inc. v. Jonathan Tasini at OpenJurist.com
  35. New York Times Co., Inc. v. Tasini et al. at Justia.com
  36. New York Times, "Sotomayor's Baseball Ruling Lingers, 14 Years Later," May 26, 2009
  37. Silverman v. Major League Baseball Player Relations Committee Inc. on OpenJurist.com
  38. "Sotomayor's District Court Decisions on Traditional Labor Matters" on The Empoyment Law Post, June 16, 2009
  39. New York Times, "Sotomayor, Baseball's Savior, May Be Possibility for High Court," May 14, 2009
  40. New York Times, BASEBALL: Woman in the News; Strike-Zone Arbitrator -- Sonia Sotomayor," April 1, 1995
  41. A summary of media related decisions by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor
  42. FOIA Update: Significant New Decisions (1995)
  43. First Amendment Center, "Sotomayor on the First Amendment," May 28, 2009
  44. New York Times, "G.O.P., It's Eyes on High Court, Blocks a Judge," June 13, 1998
  45. The New York Times, "After Delay, Senate Approves Judge for Court in New York,"October 3, 1998
  46. Ratings of Article III judicial nominees, 105th Congress
  47. Time Magazine, "Where Sonia Sotomayor Really Stands on Race," June 11, 2009Scroll to page 2
  48. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Equal Employment Opportunity on FindLaw
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 49.3 New York Times, "Selected Cases of Judge Sonia Sotomayor"
  50. New York Times, "Because of Race: Ricci v. DeStefano - Stanley Fish Blog," July 13, 2009
  51. Argument Recap: Ricci v. DeStefano on SCOTUSblog
  52. Legal Information Institute Bulletin, Ricci v. DeStefano
  53. Ricci v. DeStefano from Cornell Law School's Supreme Court Collection
  54. United States Supreme Court decision on Ricci v. DeStefano on www.supremecourt.gov
  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 55.3 New York Times, "Sotomayor's Notable Court Opinions and Articles," July 10, 2009
  56. Christian Science Monitor, "U.S. Supreme Court takes up 'reverse discrimination' case," January 9, 2009
  57. 57.0 57.1 Time Magazine, "Sotomayor Hearing: Why Shouldn't Judges Make Policy>," July 16, 2009
  58. 58.0 58.1 58.2 Time Magazine, "How the Republicans Will Go After Sonia Sotomayor," July 13, 2009
  59. Time Magazine, "Where Sonia Sotomayor Really Stands on Race," June 11, 2009
  60. Riverkeeper Inc. v. United States Envrionmental Protection Agency on OpenJurist
  61. Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush on OpenJurist
  62. Washington Post, "Abortion Rights Backers Get Reassurances on Nominee," May 29, 2009
  63. John Malesko v. Correctional Services Corporation on OpenJurist
  64. New York Times "Souter Said to Be Leaving Court in June," April 30, 2009
  65. Obama's Choices: Gird Your Loins
  66. Chicago Tribune, "Contrasts with court transcend ethnicity," August 7, 2009
  67. Esquire Magazize, "Sotomayor, Possible Replacement for Ginsburg," February 6, 2009
  68. The Caucus "Blogtalk: Supreme Selection and Obama’s Surprise" May 1, 2009
  69. The New York Times, "Because of Race: Ricci v. DeStefano - Stanley Fish Blog," July 13, 2009
  70. Legal Information Institute Bulletin, Ricci v. DeStefano
  71. Christian Science Monitor, "U.S. Supreme Court takes up 'reverse discrimination' case," January 9, 2009
  72. Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush on OpenJurist
  73. ChildLaw Blog, "Sotomayor on Child Porn - U.S. v. Falso," June 8, 2009
  74. Second Circuit Blog, "Good Faith Efforts," September 28. 2008
  75. Chicago Tribune, "Contrasts with court transcend ethnicity," August 7, 2009
  76. Supreme Court of the United States, Oaths of Office Taken by the Current Court Retrieved on 9/3/2013
  77. 77.0 77.1 The New York Times, Sotomayor's View of Judging Is on the Record," May 14, 2009
  78. New York Times, "Judge Sotomayor's 2003 Lecture at Indiana Law School"Scroll to page 20
  79. Fox News, "New Documents Shed Light on Sotomayor's Thoughts About Sept. 11 Attacks," June 16, 2009
  80. UC Berkeley News, 2001 Speech: A Latina judge's voice
  81. CNN.com, "Sotomayor's 'wise Latina' comment a staple of her speeches," June 8, 2009
Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
John Walker
Southern District of New York
1991–1998
Succeeded by:
Victor Marrero
Preceded by:
Daniel Mahoney
Second Circuit
1998–2009
Seat #13
Succeeded by:
Raymond Lohier
Preceded by:
David Souter
Supreme Court
2009–present
Succeeded by:
NA