The Supremes are about to change. I listened to the announcement of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court Justice Nominee to replace Justice Souter with eyes filled with tears. Judge Sotomayor, of course, has sterling credentials in the law, a vigorous intellect and the judicial ability to apply the law to the facts. President Obama says her life’s experience is an equally important and necessary quality. Is life experience a necessary component for a Supreme Court Justice? Is having the “common touch” really a necessary ingredient to apply the law to the facts in a case before the Supreme Court?
I know the Republican Senators will probably disagree with President Obama’s emphasis on her life’s experience. Yet, any challenge of her, as the first historic Hispanic Supreme Court Justice nominee by Republicans will be problematic.
Her inspiring life’s story could make for a Hollywood movie. Her parents moved from Puerto Rico to the United States. Her father, a factory worker, with a third grade education, spoke no English and died when she was nine. Her mother, a nurse, raised her and her brother. From the South Bronx housing projects, to Princeton and Yale, she never dreamed this moment would occur. Her own reality has exceeded even her dreams. Touching as it may be, it is not her Hollywood story which will make her an excellent Supreme Court Justice.
Her finest quality for serving is her life’s experience as a former prosecutor and trial court judge. When confirmed, she will be the only Justice who has served as a trial judge and as a prosecutor. It is this experience that will be her greatest asset as a Supreme Court Justice. Many Supreme Court Justices have never so much as uttered a word in a trial court. It is in a trial courtroom where the cases that ultimately appear before the Supreme Court begin. The nuances and life’s experiences seen first hand tolling in a trial courtroom are the ones which will serve her best on the Supreme Court. I’ve always felt it’s difficult to judge from up on the bench if you’ve never seen any action down in the field. It’s akin to a general leading in a war who’s never been in a battlefield. Leaving the ivory glass tower and venturing in the courtroom battle should be a necessary ingredient to serve.
Having represented international corporations, fought for justice as a prosecutor and served as a trial and appeals court judge, it gets no better than this. I salute Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the historic first Hispanic to soon serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. You go girl!!