When Supreme Court Justice David Souter announced his planned retirement, the pressure was on President Obama to add a second woman to a bench.
At the same time, Obama was encouraged to pick a Hispanic justice.
He did both, and a good deal more.
Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit as his first appointment to the high court, was made at the White House this morning, with the president hailing her as “an inspiring woman who I think will make a great justice.”
Describing Sotomayor as a lawyer who “has worked at almost every level of our judicial system,” Obama noted that she has “more experience on the bench and more varied experience of the bench than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court when they were appointed.”
While much will be made of the fact that Obama has chosen a woman of Puerto Rican background to serve on a court that until the 1960s was made up entirely of white men, the president has, as well, chosen a jurist whose specific experience will make her a key player on a court that, in coming years, will be taking on more and more cases involving financial and economic issues.
Judge Sotomayor’s 11 years of service on the federal appeals bench (as an appointee of Bill Clinton) have been served just a few blocks from Wall Street in Manhattan, as were her six years as a federal judge (as an appointee of George H.W. Bush as the recommendation of former New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan).
“As the top federal appeals court in the nation’s commercial center,” the New York Times notes, “the court is known in particular for its expertise in corporate and securities law.”
Obama specifically cited Sotomayor’s legal skills with regard to financial and corporate issues as something that made her particularly appealing as a nominee.
The daughter of a factory worker who died when she was a child, Sotomayor — who diagnosed with diabetes as an eight year old — was raised by her mother, a nurse at a methadone clinic. Inspired by “Perry Mason” television programs, Sotomayor graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude in 1976 and then from Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal.