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Sotomayor Nomination Sparks Debate on Role of Justices

Following President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, a federal appeals court judge, to the Supreme Court, analysts debate her record and her confirmation road ahead.

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    So who is Sonia Sotomayor? And, if confirmed, what type of Supreme Court justice might she be?

    For insight and opinion, we turn to Marcia Coyle, our Supreme Court watcher, of National Law Journal; Tom Goldstein, founder of and a partner at Washington's Akin Gump law firm; Jim Copland, director of the Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy, he was a clerk on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals; and Jenny Rivera, professor of law and director of the Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality at the City University of New York School of Law. She clerked for Sotomayor when she served on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It's a mouthful.

    Thank you, everybody, for joining us.

    Jenny Rivera, what has the first wave of reaction been to Judge Sotomayor's nomination?

  • JENNY RIVERA, CUNY Law School:

    Oh, it's been tremendous. It's been tremendous. People are just elated, so supportive of her, so impressed by her history, her story, her strength on the bench. It's been just an incredible response. Everyone is just thrilled with this nomination. She embodies the American dream.


    James Copland, from your perch, how has been the reaction today?

  • JAMES COPLAND, The Manhattan Institute:

    Well, I think it's been a somewhat mixed reaction. Clearly, there's historic significance here. She wouldn't be the first Hispanic justice — that was Justice Cardozo — but she would be the first Latina justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

    And I think clearly some of the political calculation that went into the president's selection was precisely her demographics, as well as her impressive resume. There's no question that she's got an impressive resume, that she's a serious jurist.

    I would have some strong reservations about some of her judicial opinions, some of her judicial methodologies, but that's not to say that she's an unqualified candidate, because I think she meets a qualification standard.


    We're definitely going to get back to some of your objections. Of course, for the record, Justice Cardozo was of Portuguese descent, so there's some debate for some reason about whether that's actually Hispanic or not.

    Tom Goldstein, you were in the room today in the East Room of the White House when the nomination was announced. What has been the reaction in the legal community so far?


    Well, I think there's a lot of admiration for Judge Sotomayor, not just her story, but a diversity of experiences, having been a prosecutor, a trial judge, and then a Court of Appeals judge. There's also a sense that she's definitely on the left, but nonetheless balanced.

    You can count dozens and dozens and dozens of cases in which she's ruled for the government, including over dissents by her colleagues that want to rule for defendants. So there's a lot of respect there.

    I also think that it's still kind of early and people are interested in learning a lot more about her who don't already know.