- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

President Obama made history Tuesday by announcing his plan to nominate the first Hispanic to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor has an “inspiring” life story similar to his own and can employ an empathetic “common touch” on the bench.

While Judge Sotomayor, 54, presented herself as an ordinary woman with humble roots, the White House boasted that her 17-year jurist credentials give her more experience than Supreme Court nominees chosen over the past century, and aides insisted their vetting process had been exhaustive.

“Even as she has accomplished so much in her life, she has never forgotten where she began, never lost touch with the community that supported her,” Mr. Obama said, adding that his pick will bring “the knowledge and experience acquired over a course of a brilliant legal career [and] the wisdom accumulated from an inspiring life’s journey.”

The terms that the president used to describe Judge Sotomayor’s upbringing in the projects of the South Bronx in New York match the “empathy” criteria that he laid out when first considering a nominee to succeed retiring Justice David H. Souter.

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With her family beaming in the audience, Judge Sotomayor said that her “wealth of experiences” have guided her as a jurist as she attempts to understand the perspectives of all litigants in the courtroom and her colleagues on the bench.

“I strive never to forget the real-world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government,” said Judge Sotomayor, currently serving on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

Republicans kept relatively quiet Tuesday, promising to offer her a fair hearing, but conservative interest groups were readying for battle with a nominee whom they blasted as a liberal activist whose speeches and rulings make her questionable for the court.

“This nomination raises serious questions about the issue of legislating from the bench,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.

Liberal activists were just as eager for a fight. MoveOn.org promised to mobilize its 5 million members to urge a quick Senate confirmation.

The Constitutional Accountability Center said it is clear Judge Sotomayor has a record of ruling “based on the Constitution and the law, not on her own personal political views.”

Judge Sotomayor’s opponents also are likely to flag Mr. Obama’s “no” votes on both of President George W. Bush’s nominees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., actions that make Mr. Obama the first president in history to have voted against Supreme Court picks.

The political hands at the White House said they didn’t want to view the upcoming confirmation hearings as a “war” but prepared for a fight by offering Judge Sotomayor’s credentials and pointedly noting her nomination to the federal bench came from President George H.W. Bush, a Republican. They also said Mr. Obama is the first president to have spoken with each member of the judiciary panel as he made his decisions, even though he did not run names by any of them until he’d chosen Judge Sotomayor.

The White House team initially reviewed “voluminous” substantial legal writings by more than 40 possible candidates and had “direct contact” with nine contenders, advisers said.

“There couldn’t be a more serious appointment than someone to a lifetime on the Supreme Court. I don’t think there is any stone that’s been left unturned,” said a senior administration official, speaking to reporters on background.

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