Law & Courts

Sotomayor Is Supreme Court Pick

By Erik W. Robelen — May 26, 2009 2 min read
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President Barack Obama today nominated federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. If approved by the U.S. Senate, she would be the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve in the post, replacing Justice David H. Souter, who recently announced plans to step down.

Judge Sotomayor, 54, has weighed in on a number of federal cases relating to education, including as the federal district court judge in the case of Bartlett v. New York State Board of Examiners. In her decision for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District in New York, she ruled that a law school graduate with dyslexia was entitled to extra time in taking the bar exams.

Just this spring, in Garcia v. Yonkers School District, she joined two fellow justices on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in unanimously reversing an award of legal fees to students in a case in which those students challenged their suspension for walking out of school to join a budget protest (see previous post). She also recently weighed in on a case related to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in Somoza v. New York City Department of Education.

Judge Sotomayor has a long legal track record as a federal judge. She became a U.S. district court judge in 1992 and then a justice on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1998, named by President Bill Clinton.

A press release issued by the White House described Sotomayor’s educational background this way:

Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education. Driven by an indefatigable work ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school. Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York. She first heard about the Ivy League from her high school debate coach, Ken Moy, who attended Princeton University, and she soon followed in his footsteps after winning a scholarship.

She went on to graduate from Princeton University in 1976 and earn her law degree from Yale University in 1979.

In announcing her selection, President Obama said Judge Sotomayor has “a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court Justice.”

No doubt, we’ll be seeing lots of statements today by various groups weighing in on the president’s pick. For its part, the National Urban League applauded the choice, calling her “an eminently qualified judge.” She’s sure to get plenty of scrutiny during the confirmation process: In his formal statement on the appointment, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “Senate Republicans will treat Judge Sotomayor fairly. But we will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law even-handedly, despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.”

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.