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Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court's First Hispanic and Third Female

President Obama's Historic Choice of a "Wise Latina" Justice

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Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court's First Hispanic and Third Female
© Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Updated October 05, 2009
When Justice David Souter announced his retirement from the Supreme Court in May 2009, the resulting vacancy on the bench enabled President Barack Obama to make a historic choice. His nomination of federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court demonstrated his ongoing pledge to bring about change. Seventy-two days later, the Senate cast a groundbreaking vote to appoint the Court's third female and first Hispanic justice.

Even before it was known that the president would nominate a woman, Sotomayor was an early front-runner and the target of personal attacks. Once she became the nominee her previous rulings, public statements, and law school lectures all came under scrutiny. Both supporters and opponents sought clues indicating how she might vote on such issues as abortion and affirmative action.

Although most political observers knew she had enough votes for confirmation, the racism and sexism that surfaced, along with partisan pressure to vote against her, shadowed the entire process.

Prior to the Nomination

Obama's Historic Choice

Controversy Surrounding the Nomination

  • "The 'Racist' Uproar Over Sotomayor's 'Wise Latina' Comment"
    Sotomayor's statement, called 'racist' by some right-wing conservatives, was taken out of context from a speech in which she questions whether or not any judge can completely leave behind race, gender and other life experiences while on the bench.
  • "Sotomayor's Word Choices, Then and Now"
    President Obama weighed in on her previous statements as Sotomayor prepared for the initial round of 'courtesy calls' to those senators who would determine her fate during Senate confirmation hearings.

Prior to the Confirmation Process

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings

Historic Confirmation of Sotomayor

Her Impact on the Supreme Court

  • "Her Day in Court - Sotomayor Begins First Term on Supreme Court"
    Although legal analysts are divided as to whether she'll move the Supreme Court right, left, or have little impact, Sotomayor's certainly changing the dynamic of "The Nine" by doubling the presence of women. And like her predecessor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will she indulge in small touches of femininity such as wearing a lace collar?.

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