President Obama has chosen federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, two sources told CNN on Tuesday.
Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic and third female U.S. Supreme Court justice if confirmed. Obama plans to announce his nominee at 10:15 a.m. ET Tuesday, sources told CNN. The president chose Sotomayor over the weekend at Camp David, Maryland, according to two sources close to the selection process. While Obama was impressed with Sotomayor’s personal story and professional qualifications after meeting her at the presidential retreat, he did not immediately offer her the job, the sources said. Sotomayor, a 54-year-old judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was named a U.S. District Court judge by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, and was elevated to her current seat by President Clinton. Supporters say that appointment history, along with what they call her moderate-liberal views, would give her some bipartisan backing in the Senate.
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A senior White House official said that Sotomayor was “nominated by George Bush — then Bill Clinton — [and has] more judicial experience than anyone sitting on the court had at the time they were nominated.” But she has suffered through recent stinging criticism in the media and blogs from both the left and right over perceived — some defenders say invented — concerns about her temperament and intellect. As she has risen through the judicial ranks, Sotomayor increasingly has drawn the ire and opposition of conservatives. A majority of Republican senators opposed her elevation to the appellate court in 1998. Conservatives point to, among other things, her authoring of a 2008 opinion supporting the city of New Haven, Connecticut’s decision to throw out the results of a firefighter promotion exam because almost no minorities qualified for promotions. The Supreme Court heard an appeal of the case in April; a final opinion is pending. “Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important that the law as written,” said Wendy Long, counsel to the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network. “She thinks that judges should dictate policy and that one’s sex, race and ethnicity ought to affect the decisions one renders from the bench. … She has an extremely high rate of her decisions being reversed, indicating that she is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court.” However, the senior White House official said Sotomayor has had “99 percent of her decisions” upheld by a higher court. Some Hispanic groups expressed concern after a skit last week on “Late Show With David Letterman” compared Sotomayor with a noisy Spanish-speaking judge on a popular TV courtroom show that settles petty legal disputes. Obama said Saturday he wants intellectual firepower and a common touch in the next Supreme Court justice and said he doesn’t “feel weighed down by having to choose … based on demographics.” Obama’s nominee will replace retiring Justice David Souter, who announced this month he would step down when the court’s current session ends this summer. There had been wide speculation that Obama would name a woman to the court, which has one female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Obama also had been under pressure to nominate a Hispanic justice to the court. Obama’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. The nominee is not expected to have difficulty being confirmed in the Democratic-controlled Senate in time for the new court session in October. The president has said he hopes to have hearings in July, with the confirmation completed before Congress leaves for the summer.