Obama Taps Sotomayor for Supreme Court

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WASHINGTON -- President Obama named Sonia Sotomayor, an Hispanic, Bronx-based federal appeals judge as his pick for the Supreme Court.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sotomayor, 54, would succeed retiring Justice David Souter. She would become the first Hispanic to serve on the nation's highest court.

Click play for comments from Matt Lewis of PoliticsDaily.com, following this report.

Women were reportedly at the head of the line when it came to President Obama's considerations for a Supreme Court nominee. That's because there's only one female justice on the bench now and she's feeling lonely. 

"Now there I am all alone and it doesn't look right," Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.    

But as the confirmation hearings begin, some are asking if the Republicans will battle Sotomayor's nomination as the Senate Judiciary Committee takes a closer look at her judicial record and philosophy.

A Look at Past Rulings

Sotomayor stood with New Haven, Conn., and against a group of white firefighters in a reverse discrimination suit.  She agreed New Haven had the right to not promote these white firefighters when they scored best in a test for those promotions and minority firefighters scored near the bottom.

The Bronx-based judge reportedly does not see the Second Amendment as giving individuals a right to bear arms.  That will raise the ire of many conservatives.

But on one of the hottest issues of the century, abortion, Sotomayor has little record.  She did write an opinion in 2002 that upheld the "Mexico City Policy," which prevented foreign organizations getting any U.S. funds to pay for or support abortions.  But it was a technical ruling, saying the American pro-choice group challenging the Mexico City Policy basically had no standing in the case since the Policy only affected foreign organizations. 

Sotomayor backed religious rights in the case of "Amandola v. Town of Babylon."  The town had denied the use of the town hall annex to a Jewish group for worship services.  Sotomayor wrote that violated the group's First Amendment rights.

Lacking ammunition on abortion and religious rights, probably where conservatives will go after the Hispanic judge the hardest is over her willingness to see the judiciary make law.  She said during a panel discussion at Duke Law "the Court of Appeals is where policy is made."  Though she said at the same time she wasn't promoting that fact, every conservative legal group coming out against Sotomayor is quoting that comment she made at Duke.

Concern From Conservatives

The rallying cry for conservatives for years has been that judicial nominees should interpret the law, not make the law.

The lack of any pro-choice rulings on her part is not stopping a number of leading pro-life organizations from attacking Sotomayor.  Their general thrust is that she favors legislating from the bench, and that's the kind of attitude that ends up creating new rights -- like the right to abortion established by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.

Charmaine Yoest, Americans United for Life President, stated of Sotomayor today, "She is a radical pick that divides America. She believes the role of the Court is to set policy, which is exactly the philosophy that led to the Supreme Court turning into the National Abortion Control Board denying the American people to right to be heard on this critical issue."

"Judge Sonia Sotomayor will only further contribute to the abortion on demand advocacy from the bench which in turn allows Planned Parenthood to continue its proven targeting of minority Latino neighborhoods to abort their young," added Jenn Giroux, president of Women Influencing the Nation.

Raquel Rodriquez, who was general counsel to the conservative Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, commented today, "The Senate should consider whether Judge Sotomayor possesses the humility and appreciation for our Constitution to understand that the role of the Justice is to interpret the law, not make the law."

Even liberals admit Sotomayor for the most part comes from a liberal bent.  But they dispute charges that she's "hard left."

The Fight for Future Voters

There is also conservative concern over Sotomayor's past comments that female judges and judges of color should let their gender and race affect their rulings.  Conservatives are worried she may lean too heavily on that feeling of "empathy" that President Obama said would be one of his biggest considerations in picking a nominee.

"President Obama's choice of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the U. S. Supreme Court is consistent with his ideological view supporting Supreme Court justices that rule based on personal feelings and political agenda, rather than a strict and disciplined adherence to the rule of law," said Leslie Hiner of the conservative group Freedom for Educational Choice commented.

But even if conservative Republicans in the U.S. Senate put up a fight against a liberal nominee, it's not likely to have any real impact on the nomination because the Republicans are now so seriously out-numbered in the Senate.

One thing Republicans may be weighing as they consider how much of a fight to put up: the politics of opposing the first Hispanic nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.  One of the biggest losses of support Republicans suffered from the presidential election of 2004 to that of 2008 was among Hispanic voters.  Many analysts feel it was the sizeable shift of Hispanic votes that helped make Obama's victory so large and decisive. 

Since Republicans don't have any real chance of derailing Sotomayor's ascension to the high court, they'll be assessing just how much any opposition to her will cause them to lose even more support among Hispanics. 

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.