Sotomayor poised to take oath as Supreme Court justice

Sonia Sotomayor will be the third female justice in Supreme Court history.
Sonia Sotomayor will make history Saturday when she is sworn in as the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Sotomayor twice at the Supreme Court. The first ceremony will be private as stipulated in the U.S. Constitution. A second ceremony will be held in front of Sotomayor’s friends and family as well as the media. It will also mark the first time the oath-taking ceremony will be open to television cameras in the court’s history. Sotomayor, a 55-year-old federal appeals court judge, was confirmed Thursday in a 68-31 vote. Nine Republicans joined an unanimous Democratic caucus in supporting her nomination. The only senator who was not present for the vote was Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, because of illness, but he has supported Sotomayor in the past. President Obama, who selected Sotomayor on May 26, said he was gratified by the Senate vote. Watch Senate vote » “This is a wonderful day for Judge Sotomayor and her family, but I also think it’s a wonderful day for America,” Obama said Thursday. Sotomayor will take her seat on the high court in September when the justices reconvene to hear challenges to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill. Sotomayor will be the 111th person to sit on the Supreme Court, and the third female justice. She has been praised by Democrats for her made-in-America story as a minority woman who rose to success through hard work and opportunity.

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During her confirmation hearings last month, Republicans questioned her judicial neutrality, complaining about speeches in which she made controversial statements, including her hope that a “wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences” would reach a better conclusion than a white man “who hasn’t lived that life.” See how Sotomayor measures up to other justices » Sotomayor’s confirmation capped an extraordinary rise from humble beginnings. Her parents came to New York from Puerto Rico during World War II. Her father worked in a factory and didn’t speak English. Born in the Bronx and raised in a public housing project not far from the stadium of her favorite team, the New York Yankees, Sotomayor was nine when her father died, leaving her mother to raise her and her younger brother.

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Her mother, whom Sotomayor has described as her biggest inspiration, worked six days a week to care for her and her brother, and instilled in them the value of an education. Sotomayor later graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and went on to attend Yale Law School, where she was editor of the Yale Law Journal. She worked at nearly every level of the judicial system over a three-decade career before being chosen by President Obama to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court.

She has served as a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998. She was named a district judge by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and was elevated to her current seat by President Clinton. Sotomayor presided over about 450 cases while on the district court. Before her judicial appointments, she was a partner at a private law firm and spent time as an assistant district attorney prosecuting violent crimes.