June 5, 2009

Commentary:

Sotomayor deserves our support

By Bernardo Ruiz

Judge Sonia Sotomayor deserves our support for the U.S. Supreme Court. She’s earned it not because of who she is but because of how she thinks and what she has accomplished.

If confirmed, she would become the first member of the nation’s growing and underrepresented Latino population to serve on the court. She would also be the third woman ever appointed. While much has been made of her identity and compelling personal story, it is her academic, legal and real-world credentials that make her a great pick.

Sotomayor graduated from Princeton summa cum laude. You can’t get higher than that. At Yale Law School, she was an editor of the law review, another prestigious spot.

When she became a lawyer, she “worked at almost every level of our judicial system,” as President Obama noted. And he was correct to add that she has “more experience on the bench and more varied experience of the bench than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court when they were appointed.”

In addition, her experience with financial and securities law would also add some much-needed expertise.

Though the right would like to paint her as a liberal ideologue, her extensive record overwhelmingly shows otherwise.

The most controversial of Judge Sotomayor’s remarks — that her own experiences as a Puerto Rican and a woman inform her decisions — have been wildly distorted. All judges are informed by life experience. That is as true of Justice Antonin Scalia as it is for Sotomayor.

The mainstream character of Sotomayor’s rulings have led to bipartisan support in the past. President George H.W. Bush nominated her for district judge in 1992, and President Clinton appointed her to the appeals court in 1998.

The U.S. Senate has a duty to examine Sotomayor’s qualifications rigorously. It also owes her a respectful nomination hearing.

But many on the right refuse to give her any respect. Rush Limbaugh called her a “hack” and a “reverse racist.” Newt Gingrich called her a “racist.” One commenter at the New York Daily News’ Web site said the only thing new she’d bring to the Supreme Court is “rice and beans.”

It’s unfortunate that such a highly qualified nominee has to face such slurs.

But we should not be misled by them.

Sonia Sotomayor has the experience and the temperament to merit Obama’s and the nation’s confidence.

She will make for an outstanding Supreme Court justice.

Bernardo Ruiz is a freelance writer and documentary producer living in New York City. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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