On Monday, Barack Obama became the first Democratic president in 15 years to nominate a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, selecting the reliably liberal Sonia Sotomayor to replace the outgoing David Souter.
Ms. Sotomayor, currently serving on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has a reputation as a respected jurist — although one unnamed critic has said she overestimates her intellectual abilities and appears condescending on the bench. She has extensive experience, with more than 16 years as a federal judge, and has previously passed two Senate confirmation hearings.
Ms. Sotomayor, a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, would be the third woman and first Hispanic to serve on the high court.
It is unlikely that Ms. Sotomayor would tip the court’s ideological balance, given that Mr. Souter was a reliable liberal vote. No one can predict the evolution of a Supreme Court justice, but it’s highly unlikely the Obama administration would bungle the chance to solidify the court’s liberal wing by nominating a jurist whose leftist tendencies tempered over time.
While Ms. Sotomayor did rule in 2002 against an abortion rights group that challenged the government’s right to demand that federal funds not be used to perform or advocate abortion, she also ruled in favor of a Connecticut city’s effort to use race when determining firefighter promotions.
That’s not encouraging.
Ms. Sotomayor has previously stated, “I don’t believe we should bend the Constitution under any circumstance. It says what it says. We should do honor to it.”
Fine. We expect during her confirmation hearings she’ll be asked to expand on that statement.
Ms. Sotomayor would not be the choice of a president whose top priority was preserving our traditions of limited government, individual liberty and free markets. But Mr. Obama won the election and Democrats control the Senate.
Barring some as-yet unknown revelations, there’s nothing in Ms. Sotomayor’s background that should prevent her from being confirmed.