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Obama taps Judge Sonia Sotomayor as 1st Latino/a on U.S. Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 25, 2009 (AP): President Barack Obama has nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor (2nd Circuit) as the first Latino/a to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Sotomayor, 54, would succeed retiring Justice David Souter if confirmed by the U.S. Senate.


Biographical information: Judge Sonia Sotomayor, 2nd Circuit USCA       

Since October 7, 1998, Sonia Sotomayor has been a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. From October 2, 1992 until her recent appointment, she served as a United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York.

Judge Sotomayor began her legal career in 1979 as an Assistant District Attorney in New York County. In 1984 and until her first judicial appointment, she practiced with the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt as an associate and later partner. Her focus at the firm was on intellectual property issues and international litigation and arbitration of commercial and commodity export trading cases. She also served as a member of the Second Circuit Task Force on Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts and was formerly on the Board of Directors of the State of New York Mortgage Agency, the New York City Campaign Finance Board, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Maternity Center Association.

After graduating from Princeton University summa cum laude in 1976, Judge Sotomayor attended Yale Law School. At Yale, she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order. In 1999, Judge Sotomayor received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Herbert H. Lehman College; in 2001 she received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degrees from Princeton University and Brooklyn Law School; in 2003 she received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Pace University School of Law and in 2006 she received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Hofstra University. Judge Sotomayor was an Adjunct Professor at New York University School of Law from 1998 to 2007 and is a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School since 1999.

Judge Sotomayor is a member of the American Bar Association, the New York City Chapter of the Women’s Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Puerto Rican Bar Association, the Association of Judges of Hispanic Heritage, the National Association of Women Judges and the American Philosophical Society. Judge Sotomayor is a frequent speaker and panelist at bar conferences and law schools.

Judge Sotomayor is a native of the Bronx and is fluent in both English and Spanish.

U.S. Supreme stats: 106 white males among 110 justices


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 22, 2009 (AP): If President Barack Obama wants to make the Supreme Court more diverse, he has a wider range of options than any of his predecessors. When Ronald Reagan was president, only about 40 women served on the federal bench, the most common source of Supreme Court nominees.

Today, more than 200 women hold federal judgeships, along with 88 African-Americans, 60 Latinos, and eight Asian-Americans.

All but four of the 110 Supreme Court justices in the nation's history have been white men. Two are African-American men, Clarence Thomas and the late Thurgood Marshall, and two are white women, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor.

There has never been a Latino, Asian-American, or Native American justice.

Ginsburg is the only female justice at the moment and most of the candidates whom Obama is considering are women.

The president also has a much wider range of experienced lawyers to draw from than Reagan did when he reached down to a midlevel appeals court in Arizona to nominate O'Connor.

``The pool was simply not as broad or as deep as it is now,'' said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.

Before Jimmy Carter came to the White House in 1977, presidents beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt had put just eight women on the federal bench. Carter added 40 female federal judges in four years, including Ginsburg.

Today, 212 full-time federal judges are women, more than a quarter of the federal judiciary.

State supreme court judges—many of them elected—have an even higher share of women. Nearly a third of the judges on those courts are women. On 22 out of 53 courts, women make up at least 40 percent of the judges.

Diversity on the bench

(AP): Presidents and the total number of judges they named, broken down by women and minorities, dating from the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the first to nominate a woman to be a federal judge.

Franklin D. Roosevelt: 184 judges, 1 woman.

Harry Truman: 131 judges, 1 woman, 1 African-American.

Dwight Eisenhower: 165 judges.

John F. Kennedy: 125 judges, 1 woman, 3 African-Americans, 1 Hispanic.

Lyndon Johnson: 167 judges, 3 women (including the first African-American woman), 9 African-Americans, 3 Hispanics.

Richard Nixon: 220 judges, 1 woman, 6 African-Americans, 2 Hispanics, 1 Asian-American.

Gerald Ford: 62 judges, 1 woman, 3 African-Americans, 1 Hispanic, 2 Asian-Americans.

Jimmy Carter: 258 judges, 40 women (including the first Hispanic woman), 37 African-Americans, 16 Hispanics, 3 Asian-Americans, 1 Native American.

Ronald Reagan: 358 judges, 29 women, 7 African-Americans, 14 Hispanics, 2 Asian-Americans.

George H.W. Bush: 187 judges, 36 women, 11 African-Americans, 8 Hispanics.

Bill Clinton: 367 judges, 104 women (including the first Asian-American woman), 61 African-Americans, 23 Hispanics, 5 Asian-Americans, 1 Native American.

George W. Bush: 321 judges, 71 women, 23 African-Americans, 30 Hispanics, 4 Asian-Americans. Source: Federal Judicial Center

(The list includes Washington, D.C., as well as two high courts each for Oklahoma and Texas.)

The rise in the number of women as judges reflects steady growth in the number of female lawyers. About a third of lawyers, as well as roughly half of law school graduates, are women.

``I wouldn't say the doors have swung open as fully as we would like,'' Greenberger said. ``Nonetheless, there are superb women in the judiciary, academia and private practice.''

The numbers are smaller for minorities. Of the 793 full-time federal trial and appeals court judges, 88 are African-American, 60 are Latino and eight are Asian-American. There are no Native American judges.

Carter brought much greater diversity to federal courts than any of his predecessors. In the 16 years beginning with the election of John F. Kennedy, presidents filled 21 judgeships with African-Americans. The total double counts Marshall, who was made an appeals court judge by Kennedy and then put on the Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson.

Carter nominated 37 African-American judges in his single term. He named 16 Latinos, more than twice as many as previous presidents combined.

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him significantly raised the number of women and minorities in the judiciary. Nearly 30 percent of judges nominated by Clinton and more than 20 percent of Bush's picks were women.

African-Americans made up 16 percent and Latinos accounted for 7 percent of Clinton-nominated judges. The numbers were 8 percent and 10 percent, respectively, for Bush.






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