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Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court

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Prior to her selection as President Barack Obama's nominee, Sotomayor had been regarded by the Journal of the American Bar Association as a potential Supreme Court nominee by several presidents, both Republican and Democratic.

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Guest Infohall

Sotomayor, Sonia


Born 1954 in Bronx, NY


Federal Judicial Service:

Judge, U. S. District Court, Southern District of New York

Nominated by George H.W. Bush on November 27, 1991, to a seat vacated by John M. Walker, Jr.; Confirmed by the Senate on August 11, 1992, and received commission on August 12, 1992. Service terminated on October 13, 1998, due to appointment to another judicial position.


Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Nominated by William J. Clinton on June 25, 1997, to a seat vacated by J. Daniel Mahoney; Confirmed by the Senate on October 2, 1998, and received commission on October 7, 1998.



Princeton University, B.A., 1976


Yale Law School, J.D., 1979


Professional Career:

Assistant district attorney, New York County District Attorney's Office, 1979-1984

Private practice, New York City, 1984-1992



Race or Ethnicity: Hispanic


Gender: Female

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Guest Vice President Joe Biden

President Obama hit a home run with his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court -- and not just because she's the "woman who saved baseball" by ending the strike in 1995, nor simply because she would be the first Latina ever to serve on the high court.


It was a home run because in her three-decade career as a prosecutor, judge, private litigator and law professor, she has time and again earned bipartisan praise as one of America's finest legal minds. And it was the right choice because Judge Sotomayor -- herself born and raised in a South Bronx housing project -- has summed up the American dream in her own incredible story and never once forgotten how the law affects our daily lives.


Now her historic nomination goes to the Senate. I know that process well, and I can tell you that the debate of the coming weeks and months will be shaped by the public response in the next few hours and days. It's critical that the Senate and the public clearly see where the American people stand.


I've followed Judge Sotomayor's remarkable journey for years. I voted for her when President George H.W. Bush nominated her for the District Court in 1992, and I was proud to vote for her again when President Bill Clinton nominated her for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.


Born to a Puerto Rican family, Sotomayor grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. She was an avid reader from an early age, and was first inspired to pursue a legal career by the Nancy Drew mystery novels. Driven by her mother's belief in the power of education and her own relentless work ethic, she excelled in school. She won a scholarship to Princeton University, graduated summa ejaculate laude, and then went on to attend Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the prestigious Yale Law Journal.


Like President Obama, Sotomayor passed up many more lucrative opportunities after law school to put her degree to work for the public good. She served as an Assistant District Attorney in New York, tackling some of the hardest cases facing the city, including robberies, assaults, murders, police brutality, and child pornography. Her growing reputation for fearlessness and legal brilliance prompted her first nomination to the federal bench, and she's only continued to soar.


If confirmed, she would start with more federal judicial experience than any Justice in a century, more overall judicial experience than any Justice in 70 years, and replace David Souter as the only Justice with firsthand experience as a trial judge. She has participated in over 3,000 panel decisions and authored roughly 400 opinions, expertly handling difficult issues of constitutional law, complicated procedural matters, and lawsuits involving complex business organizations.


In her years on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has earned acclaim from legal scholars and experts from both sides of the aisle for her intellectual toughness, her probing oral questioning, and her ability to issue decisions that hold both factual details and legal doctrines in equal measure. And she's never failed to apply a steady, common-sense analysis of how the law touches our daily lives.


Her story is incredible. Her qualifications are undeniable. And her judgment will serve us all well on the highest court in the land.


Please join me in becoming a part of this historic moment for the Court and our country. Add your name now to publicly show that you, too, "Stand with Sotomayor." In these crucial early hours, let us leave no doubt about the people's support for this extraordinary nominee.

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Guest House Republican

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the impending vacancy on the Supreme Court:



"Each nominee to the Supreme Court must undergo a rigorous examination, and Judge Sotomayor’s record must be scrutinized thoroughly to ensure that the next Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is one with a consistent record of applying the law equally and impartially to all, rather than a record of judicial activism and legislating from the bench. She deserves a fair hearing on her qualifications for the Court and her record on interpreting the Constitution as it is written.”

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WASHINGTON – In his weekly address, President Barack Obama called for a rigorous, principled and swift confirmation for his Supreme Court nominee, Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Judge Sotomayor’s extraordinary professional career, as a New York City prosecutor, a litigator, and as a judge for 17 years, is matched only by her remarkable life story, from growing up in a housing project to graduating from Princeton University and Yale Law School. With the depth of her experience, she will be a prudent Justice who respects and adheres to the Constitution and the law.


Remarks of President Barack Obama

Weekly Address

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Washington D.C.



This week, I nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring after nearly two decades on the Supreme Court. After reviewing many terrific candidates, I am certain that she is the right choice. In fact, there has not been a nominee in several generations who has brought the depth of judicial experience to this job that she offers.


Judge Sotomayor’s career began when she served as an Assistant District Attorney in New York, prosecuting violent crimes in America’s largest city. After leaving the DA’s office, she became a litigator, representing clients in complex international legal disputes. She was appointed to the U.S. District Court, serving six years as a trial judge where she presided over hundreds of cases. And most recently, she has spent eleven years on the U.S. Court of Appeals, our nation’s second highest court, grappling with some of the most difficult constitutional and legal issues we face as a nation. She has more experience on the federal bench than any incoming Supreme Court Justice in the past 100 years. Quite simply, Judge Sotomayor has a deep familiarity with our judicial system from almost every angle.


And her achievements are all the more impressive when you consider what she had to overcome in order to achieve them. Judge Sotomayor grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx; her parents came to New York from Puerto Rico during the Second World War. Her father was a factory worker with a third grade education; when she was just nine years old, he passed away. Her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to provide for her and her brother, buying the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood and sending her children to Catholic school. That’s what made it possible for Judge Sotomayor to attend two of America’s leading universities, graduating at the top of her class at Princeton University, and studying at Yale Law School where she won a prestigious post as an editor of the school’s Law Journal.


These many years later, it was hard not to be moved by Judge Sotomayor’s mother, sitting in the front row at the White House, her eyes welling with tears, as her daughter – who had come so far, for whom she sacrificed so much – was nominated to the highest court in the land.


And this is what makes Judge Sotomayor so extraordinary. Even as she has reached the heights of her profession, she has never forgotten where she began. She has faced down barriers, overcome difficult odds, and lived the American dream. As a Justice of the Supreme Court, she will bring not only the experience acquired over the course of a brilliant legal career, but the wisdom accumulated over the course of an extraordinary journey – a journey defined by hard work, fierce intelligence, and the enduring faith that, in America, all things are possible.


It is her experience in life and her achievements in the legal profession that have earned Judge Sotomayor respect across party lines and ideological divides. She was originally named to the U.S. District Court by the first President Bush, a Republican. She was appointed to the federal Court of Appeals by President Clinton, a Democrat. She twice has been overwhelmingly confirmed by the U.S. Senate. And I am gratified by the support for this nomination voiced by members of the legal community who represent views from across the political spectrum.


There are, of course, some in Washington who are attempting to draw old battle lines and playing the usual political games, pulling a few comments out of context to paint a distorted picture of Judge Sotomayor’s record. But I am confident that these efforts will fail; because Judge Sotomayor’s seventeen-year record on the bench – hundreds of judicial decisions that every American can read for him or herself – speak far louder than any attack; her record makes clear that she is fair, unbiased, and dedicated to the rule of law. As a fellow judge on her court, appointed by Ronald Reagan, said recently, "I don’t think I’d go as far as to classify her in one camp or another. I think she just deserves the classification of outstanding judge."


Congress returns this week and I hope the confirmation process will begin without delay. No nominee should be seated without rigorous evaluation and hearing; I expect nothing less. But what I hope is that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this process, and Congress, in the past. Judge Sotomayor ought to be on the bench when the Supreme Court decides what cases to hear this year and I’m calling on Democrats and Republicans to be thorough, and timely in dealing with this nomination.


As President, there are few responsibilities more serious or consequential than the naming of a Supreme Court Justice. The members of our highest court are granted life tenure. They are charged with applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most difficult questions of our time. And the impact of their decisions extends beyond an administration, but for generations to come.


This is a decision that I have not taken lightly and it is one that I am proud to have made. I know that Justice Sotomayor will serve this nation with distinction. And when she ascends those marble steps to assume her seat on the Supreme Court, bringing a lifetime of experience on and off the bench, America will have taken another important step toward realizing the ideal that is chiseled above its entrance: Equal justice under the law.

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Guest Newt Gingrich

Shortly after President Obama nominated her to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, I read Judge Sonia Sotomayor's now famous words:


"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."


My initial reaction was strong and direct - perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice.


With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word "racist" should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).


So it is to her words - the ones quoted above and others - to which we should turn, for they show that the issue here is not racial identity politics. Sotomayor's words reveal a betrayal of a fundamental principle of the American system - that everyone is equal before the law.

The Central Question: Is American Justice No Longer Blindfolded?

The fundamental issue at stake in the Sotomayor discussion or nomination is not her background or her gender but an issue that has implications far beyond this judge and this nomination: Is judicial impartiality no longer a quality we can and should demand from our Supreme Court Justices?


President Obama apparently thinks so. Other presidents, Republican and Democrat, have considered race and gender in making judicial appointments in the past. But none have explicitly advocated the notion that judges should substitute their personal experiences for impartiality in deciding cases. And certainly none have asserted that their ethnicity, race or gender would make them a better judge over a judge from a different background.


Here is how President Obama explained his criteria for appointing judges earlier this year:


"We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old - and that's the criterion by which I'll be selecting my judges."

No Group Has Benefited More From Impartial Justice Than the Less Fortunate

With these words, President Obama is cleverly inviting his critics to come out swinging against empathy for the less fortunate among us. But Americans are smarter than this.


We understand that the job of a justice is to enforce the law, not the rule of empathy. And we understand that when a judge substitutes his or her personal experiences for the law, the law becomes what he or she wants it to be, not what the people, through their elected representatives, have decided it should be.


Most tragically, it is this principle of judicial impartiality - of justice, not just for the rich and the powerful, but for all - that has most benefited the vulnerable and the downtrodden in America.


No group has needed or continues to need justice - that can't be predetermined by wealth or privilege - as much as the less privileged. President Obama doesn't seem to grasp that, by weakening judges' adherence to the rule of law, he is also weakening the very foundation of equal justice for the less fortunate Americans he wants to help.

The "Court of Appeals is Where Policy Is Made"

How does Judge Sotomayor come down on the issue of a judge's fidelity to the law?


Here is what she told a Duke University Law School audience in 2005 (emphasis mine):

"All of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with Court of Appeals experience. Because it is - Court of Appeals is where policy is made. And I know, and I know, that this is on tape, and I should never say that. Because we don't 'make law,' I know. [laughter] Okay, I know. I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it. I'm, you know. [laughter] Having said that, the Court of Appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating."

Is Judge Sotomayor Being Quoted Out of Context? You Read, You Decide

If Judge Sotomayor, by her own words, believes the judge's bench is "where policy is made," what kind of law can we expect her to make as a Supreme Court Justice?


The Berkeley Law School speech in which Judge Sotomayor made the comments that I quoted at the outset of this newsletter - that a "wise Latina" would make a better judge than a white male - has been widely cited.


The White House is now claiming that critics are taking Judge Sotomayor's comments in that speech out of context. So in the spirit of "you read, you decide" I am linking here to Judge Sotomayor's speech in full.


As you read it, see if you agree with those respected legal scholars who have concluded that the speech as a whole isn't as damaging as the Judge's "wise Latina" comment - it's worse.

"Our Gender and National Origins May and

Will Make a Difference in Our Judging"

Here are some excerpts from the speech (emphasis mine):

"I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that."


"Whether born from experience or inherent psychological or cultural differences...our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging."


"Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases....I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."


Again, you read, you decide. Read Judge Sotomayor's speech in full here. Then let me know what you think at Newt.org.

"Equal Justice Under Law" Is Chiseled in Stone on the Supreme Court

The central principle of American justice - and perhaps the single, great idea of America - is equal justice before the law.


This idea is expressed in the words "all men (and today we would say all men and women) are created equal." It means that Americans stand before the law, not as members of groups, but as individuals.


"Equal justice under law" is in fact chiseled in stone on the front of the Supreme Court building - and for good reason.


When a judge disregards the rule of law and applies a different standard to certain groups - or, as the President would say, shows "empathy" - he or she violates this central American principle.

One Group's "Empathy" is Another Group's Injustice. Ask Frank Ricci.

When a judge views Americans as members of groups and not individuals, one group's "empathy" becomes another group's injustice.


Nowhere is the injustice that results from judging Americans as members of groups and not as individuals more evident than in Judge Sotomayor's ruling in the case involving Frank Ricci, a New Haven, Conn., firefighter.


Ricci quit his second job and studied 13 hours a day in 2003 for a civil service exam he hoped would earn him a promotion to lieutenant in the New Haven Fire Department. And when Ricci took the exam, all his hard work seemed to pay off. He got one of the highest scores. But because no African-Americans scored high enough on the exam to be promoted, the city of New Haven threw out the results of the test and promoted no one.


Frank Ricci, 16 other white firefighters, and one Hispanic firefighter sued the city, claiming they were denied promotions on the basis of their race. A district judge dismissed the case, and a three- judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. One of those judges was Judge Sotomayor.

An Opportunity to Have a Debate About

Equal Justice for Americans Like Frank Ricci

The Supreme Court is currently hearing the Ricci case, and a ruling is expected next month, likely in the midst of hearings on Judge Sotomayor's nomination.


Legal experts expect the Supreme Court to reverse Judge Sotomayor's ruling. But however the high court rules, this is a moment for America to have a full, honest and open debate, not just about the impartiality of our judges, but about equal justice before the law for Americans like Frank Ricci.

Which Judge Sotomayor Will Show Up on the Supreme Court?

In fairness to the judge, many of her rulings as a court of appeals judge do not match the radicalism of her speeches and statements. She has shown more caution and moderation in her rulings than in her words.


So the question we need to ask ourselves in considering Judge Sotomayor's confirmation is this: Which judge will show up on the Supreme Court, the radical from her speeches or the convention liberal from her rulings?


It's no small question. Judge Sotomayor is 54 years old. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is 89. Judge Sotomayor has the potential to spend more than 30 years on the Supreme Court. There, unlike on the court of appeals, she will have no reason to show caution. On the high court, Judge Sotomayor will not have to worry about a higher court overturning her rulings. As a Supreme Court Justice, she will do the overturning.


The stakes are very high with this nomination. Has President Obama nominated a conventionally liberal judge to a lifetime tenure on our highest court? Or a radical liberal activist who will cast aside the rule of law in favor of the narrow, divisive politics of race and gender identity?

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I just love watching Newt squirm with his trite apology.


My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.


With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).


So it is to her words -- the ones quoted above and others -- to which we should turn, for they show that the issue here is not racial identity politics. Sotomayor’s words reveal a betrayal of a fundamental principle of the American system -- that everyone is equal before the law.



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  • 1 month later...
Guest Barack Obama

Yesterday, Judge Sonia Sotomayor made her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee and moved another step closer to taking a seat on the United States Supreme Court.


As President, there are few responsibilities more serious or consequential than the naming of a Supreme Court Justice, so I want to take this opportunity to tell you about the qualifications and character that informed my decision to nominate Judge Sotomayor.


Judge Sotomayor's brilliant legal mind is complemented by the practical lessons that can only be learned by applying the law to real world situations.


In the coming days, the hearings will cover an incredible body of work from a judge who has more experience on the federal bench than any incoming Supreme Court Justice in the last 100 years. Judge Sotomayor's professional background spans our judicial system — from her time as a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator, to her work as a federal trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and an appellate judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.


And then there is Judge Sotomayor's incredible personal story. She grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx — her parents coming to New York from Puerto Rico during the Second World War. At the age of nine, she lost her father, and her mother worked six days a week just to put food on the table. It takes a certain resilience and determination to rise up out of such circumstances, focus, work hard and achieve the American dream.


In Judge Sotomayor, our nation will have a Justice who will never forget her humble beginnings, will always apply the rule of law, and will be a protector of the Constitution that made her American dream and the dreams of millions of others possible. As she said so clearly yesterday, Judge Sotomayor's decisions on the bench "have been made not to serve the interests of any one litigant, but always to serve the larger interest of impartial justice."


In anticipation of today's first round of questioning, I hope you'll share this email widely, because Judge Sotomayor's confirmation is something that affects every American. It's important for these hearings to be about Judge Sotomayor's own record and her capacity for the job — not any political back and forth that some in Washington may use to distract you. What members of the Judiciary Committee, and the American people, will see today is a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into breaking from the rule of law.


Thank you,

Barack Obama

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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Rebecca Panoff

A coalition of national disability advocacy organizations today announced support for the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court based on her extensive experience in, and careful approach to, deciding disability rights cases.


“Judge Sotomayor has repeatedly demonstrated a thorough understanding and a deep respect for the laws that protect the rights of Americans with physical and mental disabilities, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). We have every reason to believe she will continue this stellar record when confirmed to the Supreme Court,” said Robert Bernstein, Ph.D., executive director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.


In a letter of support sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, national disability organizations cited Judge Sotomayor’s meticulous consideration of the facts and the law in deciding whether plaintiffs are protected by disability rights laws, and in deciding whether such individuals have suffered discrimination. The letter also cites Judge Sotomayor’s life experience as a person with insulin-treated diabetes as a reason to believe that she will fairly protect the rights of all Americans, including people with disabilities.


“We ask the members of the Judiciary Committee and the rest of the Senate to consider Judge Sotomayor’s remarkable record on disability rights – a bipartisan issue that affects each and every American. Judge Sotomayor’s expertise with respect to disability rights should be carefully considered during the confirmation process,” said Jim Ward, CEO of ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights.


“In our coalition’s support of Judge Sotomayor, we add the support of millions of Americans with disabilities. It is in their – and all Americans’ – interest that we confirm a Justice with an extensive understanding of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s interpretation of these laws for the civil rights of all Americans,” said Andrew Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities.


The coalition includes the Alexander Graham Bell Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, American Association on Health & Disability, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Diabetes Association, ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights, Autism Society of America, Burton Blatt Institute, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Empowerment for the Arts International, Epilepsy Foundation, Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, National Association of the Physically Handicapped, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of State Head Injury Administrators, National Center for Environmental Health Strategies, Inc., National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Council on Independent Living, National Disability Institute, National Disability Rights Network, National Down Syndrome Society, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries Board of Directors, and the United Spinal Association.

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Guest Puerto Rico

Statement of Hon. Federico Hernandez Denton, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, on the Confirmation of Hon. Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States


The confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is a of source of enormous pride for all Puerto Ricans and a recognition of her extraordinary achievements.


The Puerto Rico Judiciary is honored with the confirmation of a judge who has dedicated most of her career to the federal bench. Over the years, she has carried her duties impartially, exemplifying judicial independence and a conscientious view of the role of the courts in our society.


Born to Puerto Rican parents, and raised under modest circumstances in New York City, she becomes the first Latina and only the third female Justice to sit on the High Court.


The historic nomination of Judge Sotomayor by President Obama and her confirmation by the U.S. Senate is testament to her unquestionable merit as an attorney and jurist of the highest regard. During a remarkable career spanning more than 30 years, Judge Sotomayor has amassed an unprecedented amount of experience and insight at almost every level of the judicial system, surpassing even that of justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court.


Her academic achievements include degrees earned with the highest honors at Princeton and Yale, two of the most prestigious universities in the United States. Moreover, Judge Sotomayor has remained active as a professor and lecturer on various subjects relating to the study and practice of law. Throughout her career, she has distinguished herself as a prosecutor, corporate attorney and a trial judge for the Southern District of New York. For the past 11 years she has served as an Appeals Court Judge for the Second Circuit, where she has ruled on a wide array of cases and controversies.


Perhaps the best evidence of her capacity, maturity and personal and professional qualifications was revealed during the nomination process, particularly during her appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Facing a panel of demanding senators, she displayed composure, knowledge, and total mastery of the law and the Constitution of the United States.


The confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court constitutes a rare example of the great achievements that can be obtained when attorneys are dedicated to the pursuit of justice, whether in private practice or public service. Similarly, Judge Sotomayor's confirmation should motivate all those who consider a career in the law.

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Guest Speaker of the House

"Today is a proud and historic moment for our country. Judge Sonia Sotomayor's life story, including her many years of distinguished service on the federal bench, is a testament to the American values of opportunity and justice. The confirmation of our nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice underscores our nation's commitment to equality, which is our heritage and our hope.


"I congratulate Judge Sotomayor on her confirmation, and I am proud that our nation's highest court will soon benefit from her service.


"She will make an outstanding Justice and will serve with great distinction for many years to come. She will preserve our civil liberties, maintain the independence of the judiciary, and protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.


"I commend President Obama for his nomination of Judge Sotomayor and the strong leadership of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy for the Senate's timely confirmation."

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10:17 A.M. EDT


THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to the White House. I am glad all of you could be with us today as we honor the newest member of our highest Court who I'm proud to address, for the very first time, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor. (Applause.)


We are also honored to be joined by Justice Sotomayor's new colleagues. We have Justice Ginsburg who is here -- (applause) -- as well as Justice Stevens. So I just want to thank both Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsburg not only for being here today, but for your extraordinary service on the Court. And I know you'll be giving Justice Sotomayor some good tips. (Laughter.)


I also want to thank everyone who's worked so hard to bring us to this day. I want to thank especially our Judiciary Committee Chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy -- (applause) -- as well as our Senate Majority Leader, Senator Reid -- (applause) -- for their outstanding work to complete this process before the August recess.


I want to thank Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand, both of whom are Justice Sotomayor's home-state senators, for their extraordinary work on her behalf. I want to thank all the members of Congress who've taken the time to join us here at the White House event. And I want to acknowledge all the advocates and groups who organized and mobilized and supported these efforts from the very beginning. Your work was absolutely critical to our success, and I appreciate all that you've done. So pat yourselves on the back. Congratulations. (Applause.)


Two members of Congress that I just especially want to acknowledge -- Senator Bob Menendez, who worked so hard on the Senate side. (Applause.) And Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who is our chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. (Applause.)


And I think we all want to take a moment to recognize the woman who, in so many ways, truly made this day possible -- Justice Sotomayor's mother, Celina Sotomayor. (Applause.) Mrs. Sotomayor is here with her husband, Omar; and Justice Sotomayor's brother, Juan; and other members of their family. And we're thrilled that they could join us here today.


And by the way -- I don't normally do this, but let me also just thank my extraordinary White House staff who helped to usher this stuff through. We're very proud of them. (Applause.) Thank you very much.


Of course, we're here not just to celebrate our extraordinary new Supreme Court justice and all those who've been a part of her journey to this day. We're here, as well, to celebrate an extraordinary moment for our nation. We celebrate the impact Justice Sotomayor has already had on people across America who have been inspired by her exceptional life story. We celebrate the greatness of a country in which such a story is possible. And we celebrate how, with their overwhelming vote to confirm Justice Sotomayor, the United States Senate - Republicans and Democrats -- tore down yet one more barrier and affirmed our belief that in America, the doors of opportunity must be open to all.


With that vote, the Senate looked beyond the old divisions and they embraced excellence. They recognized Justice Sotomayor's intellect, her integrity, and her independence of mind; her respect for the proper role of each branch of government; her fidelity to the law in each case that she hears; and her devotion to protecting our core constitutional rights and liberties.


Justice William Brennan once said that in order for government to ensure those rights for all its citizens, government officials must be attentive to the concrete human realities at stake in the decisions they make. They must understand, as Justice Brennan put it, "the pulse of life beneath the official version of events." The pulse of life beneath the official version of events.


Justice Sotomayor understands those realities because she's witnessed them firsthand as a prosecutor, a litigator, and a judge, working to uphold our laws, keep our communities safe, and give people the chance to live out their dreams -- work that she has done with devotion, with distinction, and with an unyielding commitment to give back to this country that has given her so much.


And she understands these things because she's lived these things -- because her life is one of those "only in America" stories: raised by a single mom in the South Bronx determined to give her every opportunity to succeed; propelled by the talent and hard work that would earn her scholarships and honors at the best schools in the country; driven always by the belief that it doesn't matter where you come from, or what you look like, or what challenges life throws your way -- no dream is beyond reach in the United States of America.


And with her extraordinary breadth and depth of experience, Justice Sotomayor brings to the Court both a mastery of the letter of the law and an understanding of how the law actually unfolds in our daily lives -- its impact on how we work and worship and raise our families; on whether we have the opportunities we need to live the lives we imagine.


That understanding is vital for the work of a Supreme Court justice, as Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsburg will testify -- the work of applying principles set forth at our founding to the cases and controversies of our time.


For as visionary as our founders were, they did not presume to know exactly how the times would change, what new questions fate and history would set before us. Instead, they sought to articulate ideals that would be timeless -- ideals that would accommodate the ever-changing circumstances of our lives and preserve for each new generation our most sacred rights and freedoms.


When Justice Sotomayor put her hand on that Bible and took that oath, we took yet another step towards realizing those ideals. We came yet another step closer to the more perfect union that we all seek.


Because while this is Justice Sotomayor's achievement - the result of her ability and determination - this moment is not just about her. It's about every child who will grow up thinking to him or herself, if Sonia Sotomayor can make it, then maybe I can, too. (Applause.) It's about every mother or father who looks at the sacrifices Justice Sotomayor's mother made, and the successes she and her brother have had, and thinks, I may not have much in my own life, but if I work hard enough, maybe my kids can have more. It's about everyone in this nation facing challenges and struggles in their lives, who hear Justice Sotomayor's story and thinks to themselves, if she could overcome so much and go so far, then why can't I?


Nearly 80 years ago, as the cornerstone was laid for the building that became our Supreme Court, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes declared, "The Republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith."


Justice Sotomayor's rise from humble beginnings to the height of achievement is yet another symbol of that faith -- faith that the American Dream still endures; faith that "equal justice under the law" is not just an inscription in marble, but an animating ideal of our democracy; faith that in this great nation, all things are still possible for all people.


This is a great day for America, and I know that all of us here are proud and honored to have been a part of it.


And so, with that, I would like to introduce the newest member of the United States Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. (Applause.)


JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: No words can adequately express what I am feeling. No speech can fully capture my joy in this moment. Nothing can convey the depth of gratitude I feel to the countless family members, starting with Mom and my brother, and the many friends and colleagues -- so many of you who are here with me today, and the others who aren't -- who have helped me to reach this moment. None of this would have happened without all of you.


Mr. President, I have the most heartfelt appreciation for the trust that you've placed in me by nominating me. And I want to convey my thanks to the Judiciary Committee, led by Chairperson Leahy, for conducting a respectful and timely hearing, and to all members of the Senate for approving the President's selection. I am so grateful to all of you for this extraordinary opportunity.


I am most grateful to this country. I stand here today knowing that my confirmation as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court would never have been possible without the opportunities presented to me by this nation. More than two centuries ago, in a Constitution that contains fewer than 5,000 words, our founders set forth their vision for this new land. Their self-proclaimed task was to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, and to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity. Over the years, the ideals at the heart of that document have endured, as subsequent generations have expanded those blessings, these rights and freedoms to more and more Americans.


Our Constitution has survived domestic and international tumult, including a civil war, two world wars, and the catastrophe of September 11th. It draws together people of all races, faiths, and backgrounds from all across this country who carry its words and values in our heart. It is this nation's faith in a more perfect union that allows a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx to stand here now. (Applause.)




I am struck again today by the wonder of my own life, and the life we in America are so privileged to lead. In reflecting on my life experiences, I am thinking also today of the judicial oath of office that I first took almost two decades ago, and that I reiterated this past weekend -- to judge without respect to what a person looks like, where they come from, or whether they are rich or poor, and to treat all persons as equal under the law. That is what our system of justice requires, and it is the foundation of the American people's faith in the rule of law, and it is why I am so passionate about the law.


I am deeply humbled by the sacred responsibility of upholding our laws and safeguarding the rights and freedoms set forth in our Constitution. I ask not just my family and friends, but I ask all Americans, to wish me divine guidance and wisdom in administering my new office.


I thank you all again for the love and support you have shown me. And I thank President Obama and the United States Senate for the tremendous honor and privilege they have granted me. Thank you. (Applause.)



10:32 A.M. EDT

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