Judge Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed to serve as the 111th justice on the United States Supreme Court.
President Barack Obama declared that the vote, by an overwhelming 68-31 Senate majority, “moved America yet another step closer to a more perfect union.”
The president’s meaning was clear, his sentiment correct.
Justice Sotomayor is a Latina, the first ever to sit on the nation’s highest court. And for all the controversy that her past comments about the need and value of diversity on the courts may have inspired among those who cling to a disappearing and discredited past, there is simply no question that the addition of a wise Latina to the Supreme Court represents a measure of progress not merely for one ethnic group but for the whole of America.
“Over the years, it has become increasingly important for our courts to reflect the growing Latino presence in this country,” declared the statement celebrating the Senate vote from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a leading Latino civil rights organization. “MALDEF thanks President Obama and the members of the U.S. Senate for their leadership in choosing a highly qualified and dedicated public servant to serve our country. Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation reflects the commitment of our nation’s leaders to promote the legitimacy of the judicial system and secure our community’s trust and confidence in the courts.”
It was, we can hope, an understanding of this reality that led nine Republicans to join the Senate’s Democrats in voting to confirm Barack Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court.
Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, the history buff who chairs the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke a necessary truth Thursday when said that Judge Sotomayor is “someone whose remarkable life story and varied experience will add diversity and perspective, which the Court sorely needs.”
When the American experiment began, the president, the vice president, the members of the Cabinet, the members of Congress and the members of the Supreme Court were monied white men.
There was some diversity of religion — although not a lot — and a good deal of diversity of opinion.