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StarBulletin.com

Nomination was a logical choice


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor combines an inspiring personal story and an impressive judicial record that, barring any surprises, should result in her confirmation as the nation's first Hispanic and third woman in history to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her credentials are such that conservative Republicans who disagree with her philosophically will fight her rise to the high court at their own risk.
Just as John Roberts Jr. was a logical choice in 2005 to be the chief justice because of his impressive legal record and reflection of then-President George W. Bush's conservatism, Sotomayor appears to be an ideal pick by President Barack Obama. Her replacement of Justice David H. Souter, who is retiring after 19 years as an associate justice, should retain the ideological split on the court, as Souter generally sided with liberals on 5-4 votes.

Raised with a brother by her mother in Bronx public housing after her father's death when she was 9, Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude in Princeton in 1976 and earned her law degree at Yale Law School, where she was editor of the Yale Law Journal.

She became a prosecutor in the New York district attorney's office and was in private practice before President George H.W. Bush agreed to nominate her in 1991 to the federal district bench on the recommendation of Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, under an agreement Moynihan had with the then-Republican senator from New York, Alfonse D'Amato, to share such selections. President Bill Clinton elevated her to the New York-based 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in 1998.

In one of her most controversial decisions, Sotomayor sided last year with the city of New Haven, Conn., in a discrimination case. The city had thrown away results of a promotion exam for firefighters because too few minorities scored high enough. The case is now on appeal to the Supreme Court.

While assumed to support Roe v. Wade, Sotomayor ruled in 2002 against an abortion rights group that had challenged the Bush administration's policy of prohibiting foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions.

Still, Sotomayor's selection was met with a round of criticism by conservative Republicans, adding to an ongoing ideological battle inside the GOP. Fierce opposition to the nominee risks Republican chances of getting more political support from Hispanic voters, the fastest growing segment of the nation's population. Any effort to attempt a filibuster could jeopardize those hopes.

Hawaii's Sen. Daniel Inouye was among seven Senate Democrats who made a deal in 2005 with seven Republicans that Democrats would not use the filibuster to block judicial nominations except in “;extraordinary circumstances.”; Nothing arose about Roberts that met that criteria, and the Senate confirmed his nomination by a 78-22 vote; Democrats were split, 22-22. Republicans would be wise to apply the same standard to Sotomayor's nomination.