[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/13/toobin.sotomayor/art.sotomayor.thursday.gi.jpg caption="Sonia Sotomayor appears to view the Constitution much like retired Justice David Souter did."]
CNN Senior Analyst
One of the enduring myths about Supreme Court justices is that they often turn out to "surprise" the presidents who appoint them. Sure-thing conservatives, it is said, turn out to be liberals, and vice versa. In fact, the evidence is almost entirely the opposite: that with justices, as in life, what you see is what you get.
The question, then, is this: What do you see when you look at Sonia Sotomayor, who begins her confirmation hearings as a strong favorite for confirmation?
She is, above all, a veteran judge who has 18 years on the federal bench: six as a trial judge (appointed by President George H.W. Bush) and the rest on the court of appeals (appointed by President Clinton). The question of competence is closed. Sotomayor can do the job. It's no surprise that she received a unanimous rating of well-qualified from the American Bar Association screening committee.
But what would she stand for as a Supreme Court justice? She is, it seems, a liberal, but a liberal in the cautious and careful mode of her likely future colleagues Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/13/sotomayor.hearing/art.sotomayer.01.cnn.jpg caption="Judge Sonia Sotomayor listens to opening statements Monday at her confirmation hearing."]
Sherrilyn A. Ifill
As confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor begin before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, it’s probably best to keep some perspective on the significance of the proceedings.
Unless there’s a violent crime in her past, Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Given Al Franken’s recent seating as the 60th Democratic vote in the Senate, it’s a numerical certainty that a nominee approved by Democrats will be confirmed. This reality will not stop Republicans from doing their best to drag Judge Sotomayor’s name through the mud and to paint her as a dangerous, racially driven, judicial activist.
In fact, Republicans have been “workshopping” their Sotomayor strategy over the past two weeks, staging mini-rehearsals in an attempt to figure out which tactic will most excite their base, not alienate Latino voters and refocus the seriously adrift Republican Party. Parts have been handed out to key players on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is to bring the intellectual challenge. He’s been practicing with a cleverly conceived “Daily Question for Judge Sotomayor” on his Web site. Many of the questions posed are surprisingly substantive, and the explanatory text that accompanies each question is a good way to get his constituents and sympathetic journalists up to speed on the dynamics of Republican resistance to Judge Sotomayor’s nomination.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/09/sotomayor.impact/art.sotomayor.gi.jpg caption="Judge Sonia Sotomayor"]
Special to CNN
The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States has raised the profile of Puerto Ricans in the American consciousness.
Her identification as a Puerto Rican has caused Judge Sotomayor both joy and a little grief during this stormy nomination process. But, being a Puerto Rican who also grew up in New York City, well, I can say that's par for the course for most of us.
Despite Puerto Rico being a possession of the United States since 1898, most Americans know very little about the island and Puerto Ricans - except for tourism commercials. Many consider Puerto Ricans living in the United States outside of Puerto Rico (I called these "Stateside Puerto Ricans") another new immigrant group of Latinos.
But the reality is that we can trace Puerto Rican settlements in New Orleans to the 1860s and workers from Puerto Rico migrated to Hawaii around 1900. In 1917, through an act of the United States Congress (the Jones Act), the people of Puerto Rico were made United States citizens, enabling them to come to the United States freely and legally without passport or visa.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/10/sotomayor.poll/art.sotomayor.gi.jpg caption="Critics warn confirmation hearings for Judge Sonia Sotomayor could turn into a partisan battle."]
CNN Supreme Court Producer
These rulings or cases are from Sonia Sotomayor's service as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), from 1992-98; and most prominently, an appeals judge on the U-S Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, from 1998. That New York City-based court handles appeals from New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.
Most federal appeals are heard by a three-judge panel that changes from case to case, from a larger pool of full-time judges, which in the 2nd Circuit numbers 12. A particular panel normally hears oral arguments, and has the option of issuing a full opinion. Sotomayor wrote opinions in many of the appeals listed below, but not all. In some bigger cases, the full circuit court will re-hear a case.
Lucas A. Powe Jr.
Special to CNN
Monday, in the much anticipated New Haven, Connecticut, firefighters' case, the Supreme Court reversed an opinion joined by Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.
The reversal was expected and is not the first time an appointee has been reversed by the court he was about to join.
Indeed, two of Chief Justice Warren Burger's opinions for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals were reversed in 1969, the year he joined the court. One was Watts v. United States, in which the defendant had been convicted for threatening the life of the president.
Editor's Note: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor broke her ankle Monday morning on her way to Washington for another round of meetings on Capitol Hill with senators weighing her nomination, according to the White House. Here, Senator Mary Landrieu signs the Supreme Court nominee's new cast.
Photo courtesy of Sen. Mary Landrieu's Office
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/05/sotomayor.sessions/art.sessions.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Jeff Sessions, the judiciary panel's ranking Republican, meets with Judge Sonia Sotomayor."]
Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
By nominating U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, President Obama made history. Meanwhile, conservatives - by invoking the name of Miguel Estrada - are coming close to rewriting it.
Trying to find a way to oppose Sotomayor without further enraging Latinos, those on the right are trying to change the subject by reaching back to 2002 and recalling what happened to Estrada, President Bush's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
As conservatives point out, Democrats treated Estrada dreadfully. It was the first time in U.S. history that a minority in the Senate used a filibuster to kill an appeals court nomination. Eventually, Estrada asked Bush to withdraw his name. Today, he is still one of the best, most highly regarded lawyers in Washington.
And why did Democrats go after this nominee so aggressively? It's because - like Sotomayor - Estrada was a threat. The only difference is who feels threatened. Back then, it was Democrats. Now it's Republicans.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/05/26/supreme.court/art.scotus.soto.02.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama last week introducing Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his choice for the U.S. Supreme Court."]
Special to CNN
Some of us thought the election of Barack Obama as president might signal a fading away of the old identity politics.
The assumption that fundamental lines of division in politics are set by race and ethnicity would seem to be a bit passé when 43 percent of white voters cast their ballots for a proudly "post-racial" African-American.
But the president himself has made identity politics front-page news with his selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his Supreme Court nominee. She played an important role in the New Haven firefighters' case (Ricci v. DeStefano) now awaiting decision by the Supreme Court.
Sotomayor and two colleagues simply brushed aside the important constitutional and statutory questions raised by the city's decision to discard the results of a race-neutral test given to applicants for promotions within the department. Too many men of the "wrong" color had passed it - that is, all of those who scored highest were white except for one Hispanic.
Initially he called Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor a “reverse racist” and wanted her to withdraw from consideration. Newt Gingrich has apologized for his choice of words. Some, including President Obama himself, believe Judge Sotomayor would have also chosen some of her past words differently if she had the chance.
In the conservative magazine Human Events, Gingrich writes this week: "My initial reaction was strong and direct - perhaps too strong and too direct. ... Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor's fitness to serve on the nation's highest court have been critical of my word choice. ... The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable."
According to Gloria Borger, senior political analyst for CNN, Gingrich's apology came because he was feeling the heat from his own party whose members are trying to avoid personal name calling.
Newt Gingrich and others called Sotomayor a racist after learning about her now infamous statement, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/02/sotomayor.senate/art.sotomayor1.gi.jpg caption="Judge Sonia Sotomayor appears Tuesday on Capitol Hill with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, right."]
Anita Hill will always be linked to the Senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. In 1991, she gave an explosive testimony during the confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas that forced a generation of women to stand up against sexual harassment. On the cusp of the Senate hearing for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, Hill, today a professor of law at Brandeis University, talked to ESSENCE.com about Sotomayor, a former classmate of hers at Yale Law School, and the legacy of her Senate Judiciary testimony all these years later.
ESSENCE.COM: What do you think of Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court nominee?
ANITA HILL: I think it's an excellent choice, just on the face of the selection. Here's a person who has years of experience on the bench, and has distinguished herself in private practice as well, and has been a prosecutor. I think she's got an incredible breadth of experience. Clearly she's an exceptional mind, having done very well at her undergraduate school, Princeton, and law school at Yale. But that's just the beginning. There are other things that I think make her a great choice.