Archive for July 19th, 2009
Unless you have been living under a rock, you already know that last week the media and the U.S. public opinion was deeply focused on the live hearings for the confirmation of Sonia María Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Everywhere you looked on the Internet, the name of Sotomayor popped out. The live hearings of the confirmation began on Monday and lasted until Thursday. If she is confirmed by the U.S. Congress, she would be the third woman and first Hispanic justice in the history of the Supreme Court.
I was glued to my computer screen during this time and watched most of the live hearings broadcasted by ABC News. This is the third time I’ve had the opportunity to view the confirmation of a Supreme Court Associate Justice. I watched the live hearings of Justice Robert Bork who was eventually rejected by Congress, Clarence Thomas and William H. Rehnquist. I’s a fascinating process I might say. In no other country have I seen true democracy in action as in the United States.
Who is Sonia Sotomayor? She was born in the Bronx, a borough of New York, from a very humble extraction. She grew up in public housing in the South Bronx, the daughter of working-class Puerto Rican parents who made their way to New York during World War II. Her father only got as far as third grade and could not speak English. He worked as a tool-and-die worker and her mother was a telephone operator. She later studied to become a practical nurse.
Through very hard work and a high regard for education, she graduated from Princeton and Yale College with high academic distinctions. Sotomayor graduated with an A.B. , Summa Cum Laude, from Princeton University in 1976 and received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
Ms. Sotomayor is a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace the retiring Justice David Souter. If confirmed, she would be the Court’s 111th justice, its first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice.
Like her would-be colleagues, Sotomayor served as a federal appeals court judge. But she would be the only justice with experience as a trial judge and one of two—Justice Samuel Alito is the other—who was a prosecutor.
Sotomayor displayed an easy way with her the Confirmation Committee. She joked with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, Republican from Oklahoma, in an exchange about gun rights and told a story about her mother’s disbelief when Sotomayor left a high-paying private practice to become a federal judge. She told senators she was a “really good litigator” who has been successful in persuading colleagues wherever she has worked.
I saw her answer very tough question from Republican Senators and refused to answer some questions that would damage her credibility. I saw in her a first rate intellect, first hand knowledge of the law and and a fascinating law experience. She was calm and in total control on the hot seat for four whole days and came out practically unscathed.
After all these years, topics like gender and ethnicity were constantly hovering over the confirmation room. The phrase Latino Wise woman was repeated over and over again by prodding senators trying to unbalance Ms. Sotomayor’s calm demeanor. They failed. “I am mightily impressed,” Coburn told her as he wrapped up his questioning Thursday.
During the confirmation hearings she backed away from her “wise Latina” remark, declaring it a “a rhetorical flourish that fell flat” and stating that “I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judgment.”
When Republican senators confronted her regarding other remarks from her past speeches, she pointed to her judicial record and said she had never let her own life experiences or opinions influence her decisions. She said on several occasions she believed in the rule of law and the objective interpretation of the law as set forth by Congress.
The confirmation vote is scheduled be held on July 28th. I firmly believe she will be confirmed. It will be a wise decision on behalf of Congress and her positive contributions to the U.S. Supreme Court will be seen shortly.
I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I was on the transparency and organization of the confirmation process. It’s the best example I’ve seen of Democracy in action. It would make Pericles proud to see that another country has followed its steps in the implementation of the strict rule of the law. If only other lawmakers around the world would imitate this process. In Panama we have much to learn from this great country. Good Day.