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Appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court

2009: Judge Sonia Sotomayor:
Support,
Opposition, Confirmation

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This is a continuation of a previous essay.

Support and opposition:

By 2009-JUL-17, three centrist Republicans announced that they will vote in favor of her confirmation: Richard Lugar (R-IN), Mel Martinez of (R-FL), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). However, the Senate's minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he'd vote against her. McConnell's concerns are allegedly her "... alarming lack of respect for the notion of equal justice," and whether she can separate her sympathies and prejudices from her decisions. Other Republican senators are concerned about her position on gun ownership, and what Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) said is: "... a tendency toward judicial activism."

The Associated Press commented:

"Sotomayor's hearings were as much a prelude for future Supreme Court fights as a battle over the judge herself. Republicans criticized Obama's assertion -- made before nominating Sotomayor -- that he was looking for a justice with 'the quality of empathy,' and an earlier statement when he was a senator that some decisions depend on what's in a judge's heart." 1

The vote by the Judiciary Committee is expected on 2009-JUN-21; the vote of the whole Senate will likely be held in early August.

Nomination supported by Senate Judiciary Committee:

The Judiciary Committee voted on 2009-JUL-28 to support the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Their vote was 13 to 6, and was essentially along party lines:

bulletAll twelve Democrats voted in favor of her nomination.
bulletOne Republican Senator --Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also voted in favor.
bulletThe remaining 6 Republicans voted against her nomination. 2

Senate confirms her nomination:

On 2009-AUG-06, the full Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor, 55, as the newest Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has become the 111th associate justice of the court, the third female justice and the first Hispanic justice in the court's history. Since appointments are for life, she may serve three decades or more on the court. The Senate vote of 66 to 31 was essentially on party lines, with 59 Democrats and nine Republicans voting in favor. 3

She appears to be moderate in her interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and federal/state laws. She replaces retiring Justice David Souter, a very liberal judge. Thus, the conservative-liberal balance on the Supreme Court takes one more shift to the right -- a small one this time. However, many appointees turn out to become more liberal while serving on the court where they have the opportunities to make precedences instead of being forced to follow precendences. Thus, the shift may eventually turn out to be minimal or even in a liberal direction.

President Obama called the Senate vote "historic." He said:

"The Senate has affirmed that Justice Sotomayor has the intellect, the temperament, the history, the integrity and the independence of mind to ably serve on our nation's highest court." 3

She was sworn in on AUG-08 by Chief Justice John Roberts. For the first time, the oath of office was televised live. She was prompted phrase by phrase. She had her left hand on a book held by her mother; it was probably a Bible.

One curious part of the oath of office is that it ended with a prayer to a deity: "So help me God." This would seem to be a violation of Article VI, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Perhaps the final prayer was optional and not required to be recited.

Andrew Kohul of the Pew Research Center commented on the turmoil experienced by the Republican Party over Justice Sotomayor's confirmation:

"From the very beginning Barack Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor was a no-win situation for the Republican Party - and that is the way it has played out. Yes, by not going all out to oppose her nomination, the G.O.P. probably did not worsen its woeful standing among women and Latino voters. But the likely sizable Republican vote against Judge Sotomayor, and the very tough criticism of the New York judge from the "unofficial" Republican leaders - conservative commentators - is more than enough to remind these constituencies of why they don't vote Republican very often these days.

At the same time, the Republican Party's lack of overwhelming opposition to Judge Sotomayor may have only further exacerbated another G.O.P. problem; the demoralization of its base. 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Sotomayor wins GOP backers after smooth hearings," Associated Press, 2009-JUL-17, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  2. "Senate Judiciary Committee Supports Sotomayor 13-6," Life Site News, 2009-JUL-28, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
  3. "Sotomayor approved by US Senate," BBC News, 2009-AUG-06, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8188485.stm
  4. Andrew Kohut, "The Republican Party?s Dilemma," New York Times, 2009-AUG-06, at: http://pewresearch.org/

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 Home page > Laws related to religion > Supreme Court appointees > here

Copyright 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-JUL-17
Latest update: 2009-AUG-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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