CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. May 27, 2009: Born in a housing project in the South Bronx to parents who migrated to the U.S. from Puerto Rico, Sonia Sotomayor, was on Tuesday named as President Obama`s choice to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sotomayor, 54, could make history if confirmed since she could become the first Latino member of the high court and only the third female justice. It could also offer a measure of ethnic diversity to a court dominated by white men.
Sotomayor`s history also makes her march to the top, unique and inspiring for many immigrants. Her parents moved to New York City from Puerto Rico during World War II. Her father was a tool-and-die worker with a third-grade education, while her mother, Selena Sotomayor, was a nurse. She was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8 and a year later, her father passed away, leaving her mother to raise two children alone in the projects.
It is a story that even President Obama on Tuesday called `inspiring,` adding he wants a justice with `a common touch` and a measure of `empathy.`
`I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman, who I believe will make a great justice,` said Obama, standing with Sotomayor by his side in the East Room of the White House.
Sotomayor has a younger brother, Juan Sotomayor, who is now a doctor. She graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx and earned her A.B. from Princeton University, summa cum laude, in 1976, where she won the Pyne Prize, the highest general award given to Princeton undergraduates. Sotomayor obtained her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. In 1976 Sotomayor married while still a student at Princeton University and divorced in 1983.
Sotomayor then served as an Assistant District Attorney under prominent New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, prosecuting robberies, assaults, murders, police brutality, and child pornography cases. In 1984, she entered private practice, making partner at the commercial litigation firm of Pavia & Harcourt, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation.
She became a judge on the federal district court for the Southern District of New York in 1991 and was elevated to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1998. Some of her rulings include upholding the Bush administration`s implementation of the `Mexico City Policy` which requires foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds to `neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.`
Sotomayor held that the policy did not constitute a violation of equal protection, as the government `is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds.`
And in Pappas v. Giuliani, Sotomayor dissented from her colleagues` ruling that the NYPD could terminate an employee from his desk job who sent racist materials through the mail. Sotomayor argued that the First Amendment protected speech by the employee `away from the office, on [his] own time,` even if that speech was `offensive, hateful, and insulting,` and that therefore the employee`s First Amendment claim should have gone to trial rather than being dismissed on summary judgment.
In 1995, Sotomayor made a key ruling that brought Major League Baseball back to the nation after a strike — a ruling that was among the most important moments of her career. Because of her position on the bench in New York, she was put in the position to essentially decide the future of a sport she so loved.
Acknowledging the pivotal moment, Sotomayor described how it is `when you see an outfielder backpedaling and jumping up to the wall and time stops for an instant as he jumps up and you finally figure out whether it`s a home run, a double or a single off the wall or an out.` Then she scolded baseball owners for unfair labor practices and urged lawyers for striking players and the owners to salvage the 1995 season, reach a new labor agreement and change their attitudes.
Sotomayor also released the suicide note of former White House aide Vincent Foster in 1995, acting on litigation brought by the Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act.
The nine-member court now includes just one female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and one black justice, Clarence Thomas.
Sotomayor will now have to be confirmed by the Senate and the President says he wants a confirmation vote by the start of the Senate`s five-week recess, slated to begin Aug. 7. – By CWNN Staffer