Obviously this is a very exciting and historic day, as President Obama is poised to name Sonia Sotomayor as his pick to replace Justice Souter on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor is by all accounts a brilliant jurist who has displayed a sterling sense of how the law works throughout her long and diverse career. Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSBlog makes a point that will surely help in confirmation:
Objectively, her qualifications are overwhelming from the perspective of ordinary Americans. She has been a prosecutor, private litigator, trial judge, and appellate judge. No one currently on the Court has that complete package of experience.
These qualifications, paired with the historic importance of her being the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the court, make it seem incredibly dangerous politically for Republicans to forcefully oppose her nomination. What makes it even harder is that they spent the last eight years screaming from the top of their lungs against any and all filibusters of judicial nominations. Media Matters has launched DemocracyOrHypocrisy.org, a site that has compiled clips of Republican senators speaking out against filibusters of President Bush’s nominees.
Glenn Greenwald makes a very important point about the importance of President Obama’s decision to nominate Sotomayor in the face of a vicious and cowardly smear campaign against her, her intelligence, and stereotypical racial demeanors targeting Latin women. Greenwald writes:
It is very encouraging that Obama ignored the ugly, vindictive, and anonymous smear campaign led by The New Republic‘s Jeffrey Rosen and his secret cast of cowardly Eminent Liberal Legal Scholars of the Respectable Intellectual Center. People like that, engaging in tactics of that sort, have exerted far too much influence on our political culture for far too long, and Obama’s selection of one of their most recent targets both reflects and advances the erosion of their odious influence. And Obama’s choice is also a repudiation of the Jeffrey-Rosen/Ben-Wittes/Stuart–Taylor grievance on behalf of white males that, as Dahlia Lithwick put it, “a diverse bench must inevitably be a second-rate bench.”
From an ideological and court-balance question, while Sotomayor does not seem to be moving towards the far left of the court’s make-up, she does preserve the court’s balance by being quite similar to Justice Souter. Jack Balkin writes:
Obama’s pick of Sotomayor gives him a liberal replacement to David Souter who is likely to form part of the liberal coalition of Justices currently on the Court. Sotomayor has a fairly long track record as a judge. As a result, Obama knows pretty much what he is getting, which suggests that Sotomayor is unlikely to disappoint Obama repeatedly on the issues he cares about, at least while Obama is President.
Hopefully Sotomayor becomes a forceful advocate for the rule of law on the court. But above all else, I think that how the Obama administration handled this search and selection of Sotomayor is one of the most heartening events in his young presidency. This is what change looks like and America will be better for it.