There were many qualified candidates who could have become President Obama’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, but it would be hard to argue anyone is more qualified than Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
Her bipartisan pedigree (first nominated to the bench by George H.W. Bush and then named to an appellate court by Bill Clinton) and her previous public and private legal career as a former public prosecutor and private attorney gives her a range of experience required by the president for the high court. And her respect for the Constitution is recognized even among conservatives in Congress who are itching for a brawl with the Obama administration. At her Senate confirmation hearing for the appellate court more than a decade ago, she said, "I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it."
Sotomayor, of course, is also the first Hispanic nominee for the high court, and if confirmed, would become just the third woman to serve. These are historical milestones that should have been passed long ago. They are testament to the importance of bringing diversity to the Supreme Court alongside a well-documented, three-decade record of excellence and integrity.
Her contributions to the American judicial system are evident for all to see. What’s more, she help saved America’s pastime. As a federal district judge, Sotomayor in 1995 saved baseball from itself by “ruling with players over owners in a labor strike that had led to the cancellation of the World Series.”
Judge Sotomayor is an exceptionally qualified selection in every sense of the word, from her stellar academic career at Princeton University and Yale Law School to her experience and record as an assistant district attorney, a prosecutor, a trial judge, and an appellate judge. Her record requires the Senate to give her a straight up or down vote necessary to fill Judge Souter’s seat on the bench.
Will conservatives determined to score points at the expense of a popular president but probably lacking the wherewithal to block the nomination engage in nasty political gamesmanship even though many of them voted for her in the past when she stepped up to the appellate court? Probably. But that shouldn’t deter the Senate from conducting fair, measured hearings so that the American people can recognize the excellence of the choice and the need to move swiftly and surely toward a confirmation vote.
Vanessa Cardenas is Director of Ethnic Media at the Center for American Progress.