Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed today by the US Senate as the 111th justice to sit on the US Supreme Court. She joins the 8 other justices currently in service to ensure a complete 9-member Court for the opening of the next session in October. Justice Sotomayor will be only the 3rd woman to hold a position on the Supreme Court and has made history as the 1st person of Hispanic ethnicity to win confirmation.
9 Republican senators joined with the Democratic majority to give Sotomayor a 68 to 31 margin of confirmation. The only senator not to cast a vote is Democratic Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, who is fighting a serious brain tumor and was unable to participate in the vote. Every other Democratic member (57) voted to confirm Judge Sotomayor, as did Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the two independents who caucus with the Democratic majority.
She will be sworn in on Saturday. At 55 years of age, Sotomayor is the most recent young addition to the Court, a fact which means her presence may be intended by Pres. Obama to serve as counterbalance to the more conservative justices named by his predecessor. Because she is replacing one of the more “liberal” members of the Court, it is not expected that Justice Sotomayor will shift the ideological balance of power on the Court.
Presiding over the historic vote itself was the newest addition to the US Senate, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the judiciary committee, said Sotomayor’s confirmation is “the American dream” realized. Majority leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-UT) said he was confident Justice Sotomayor would bring “good judgment” to the Supreme Court. Pres. Obama said her confirmation, including the historic achievement for an accomplished Hispanic jurist, is one more step toward “a more perfect union”.
Today is a historic day for the American people. With the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States, the American people will gain a justice with broad legal and judicial experience. Having worked as a big-city prosecutor, corporate litigator, a federal trial judge, and an appellate judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Sotomayor brings a keen legal mind, a commitment to the Constitution, and more judicial experience to the high court than anyone confirmed in the last 70 years.
Sotomayor’s confirmation was smoother than the most recent confirmation, which elevated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Alito received just 58 total votes to confirm, against 42 opposed to his confirmation. Numerous constitutional rights groups called for Democrats to filibuster until Alito’s nomination was withdrawn, and he was unable to convince most Democrats that he would follow the provisions of the Constitution more closely than his own personal political philosophy.
Sotomayor’s confirmation is being treated as history in the making, with Janet Murguía, head of the National Council of La Raza, saying “August 6, 2009 marks a watershed moment for this great nation, and it is a date that will quickly take hold in the memories of millions of Hispanic Americans of all ages and backgrounds”. Sotomayor enjoyed the more centrist-progressive momentum that brought Pres. Obama to office, and Republicans opposed to her nomination raised almost no substantive objections to her record, despite 31 senators seeking to oppose her on rhetorical-ideological grounds.