Americas
Obama chooses supreme court judge
Hispanic American judge selected by US president to serve in highest court.
Last Modified: 26 May 2009 21:04 GMT

Sotomayor has described the courts as
'the last refuge of the oppressed' [AP]

An Hispanic American has been chosen by Barack Obama to become the next supreme court judge in the first such nomination in the US.

The US president said on Tuesday that New York judge Sonia Sotomayor was "an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice".

Sotomayor said "my heart today is bursting with gratitude'' and called
the nomination the "most humbling honour of my life''.

If confirmed by the US senate, Sotomayor, 54, will succeed David Souter, who is retiring.

Both are considered to be "liberal" justices and the appointment is unlikely to change the ideological balance of the court, which shifted to the right under the Bush administration.

Powerful court

Divorced with no children and reputed to be a "workaholic", Sotomayor has often spoken of the courts as being "the last refuge for the oppressed".

In depth
She is a federal district judge from New York who grew up in the poor Bronx part of the city. Her parents are from Puerto Rico.

"I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government,'' she said on Tuesday.

Republicans have said that they will scrutinise Sotomayor's views on the importance of personal experiences in shaping legal rulings, which conservatives oppose in favour of a strict reading of the law.

"She must prove her commitment to impartially deciding cases based on the law, rather than based on her own personal politics, feelings, and preferences," said John Cornyn, a Republican senator.

Susan Karamanian, an associate dean at George Washington University law school in Washington DC, told Al Jazeera the appointment showed he wanted "somebody who is well-established in the law, that has a variety of experiences".

"Somebody who is prepared to perhaps take a little more, if there are some of these cases where there’s judgement room, to perhaps look at fairness factors, to perhaps look at the experience of the underdog and the like."

Justices serve until they retire or die, giving presidents an opportunity to influence policy long after their terms end.

The supreme court is one of the three branches of the US government, the final court of appeals and the final arbiter of the US constitution.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
Amid vote audit and horse-trading, politicians of all hues agree a compromise is needed to avoid political instability.
Part of the joint accord aimed at ending the political impasse establishes an independent National Election Commission.
Rights groups say the US prosecution of terrorism cases targets Muslims and are fraught with abuses.
Local painters forgo experimentation to cater to growing number of foreign buyers.
Cyprus is a tax haven and has long attracted wealthy Russians, but it could become a European energy hub.
join our mailing list