Judge Sonia Sotomayor is touted by supporters as a justice with bipartisan favor and historic appeal.
The 54-year-old judge is of Puerto Rican descent. If confirmed, she would become the first Hispanic to serve on the high court. She would also be the third female named to the Supreme Court, and the second on the current court. Obama is expected to announce her as his nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter at 10:15 a.m. ET. The announcement will be live on CNN and CNN.com. Sotomayor is a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The liberal-leaning justice was named a district judge by President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and was elevated to her current seat by President Bill Clinton. Supporters say that appointment history, along with what they describe as her moderate-liberal views, will give her some bipartisan backing in the Senate. They also point to her compelling story and personal appeal. Sotomayor, a big New York Yankees fan, rose from humble beginnings at a housing project in the South Bronx and went on to attend Princeton University and Yale Law School. Sotomayor has battled diabetes since childhood. Her father died when she was young, and her mother, who died recently, raised her and her younger brother and taught them about the importance of education. Robyn Kar, who clerked for Sotomayor from 1998 to 1999, described her as a “warm, extraordinarily kind and caring person.”
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“She has an amazing story, but she’s also just an amazing person,” he said, adding that she has a knack for getting to know those around her. “She was the judge who, in the courthouse for example, knew all of the doormen, knew the cafeteria workers, who knew the janitors — she didn’t just know all of the other judges and the politicians. She really went out of her way to get to know everyone and was well loved by everyone.” Conservatives argue Sotomayor has a “hard-left record” and believes that judges should consider experiences of women and minorities in their decision-making. They also described her as a “bully” who “abuses lawyers.” Asked about allegations that she tends to be prickly with her colleagues, Kar said, “I would say no to that. What I would say is that she has a reputation for being prickly on the bench, which is a bit different.” Kar said if attorneys have with a weak argument, “she’s very quick … and intellectually demanding.” “They’ll have a hard time if they show up in her court without really doing their homework,” he said. Sotomayor was confirmed to her current seat by the Senate in 1998, a process that took more than a year. The final vote was 67-29. Though a majority of Senate Republicans opposed her nomination, she did win several key Republican votes that year, which could prove critical in this year’s confirmation fight. In 1998, the New York judge won the support of 25 Republicans, including eight senators who still serve. If Sotomayor is able to maintain the support of just a few of those GOP senators this year, Senate Republicans would face an almost impossible task in defeating her nomination, even by filibuster, which requires 40 votes. Currently, Republicans hold 39 senate seats. All 29 votes against her 1998 nomination were from Republicans, 11 of whom still serve. The president has said he hopes hearings will be held in July, with the confirmation completed before Congress leaves for the summer.