Sonia Sotomayor will face a brutal Supreme Court confirmation

Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, is a living testament to the American Dream.

Her parents moved from Puerto Rico to the South Bronx. After her father died when she was eight, she was raised by her mother, a nurse. Eventually, she went to Princeton and Yale Law School. She is a former prosecutor and would be the first Latina justice if confirmed. But the case for Sotomayor is not so clear cut, according to Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic.

"Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees," he writes. "Sotomayor, several former clerks complained, rankled her colleagues by sending long memos that didn't distinguish between substantive and trivial points, with petty editing suggestions -- fixing typos and the like -- rather than focusing on the core analytical issues."

Rosen's article also raises questions about Sotomayor's judicial temperament. Whether her approach to the law will strike conservatives as judicial activism remains to be seen. And in any case, judicial history is filled with justices who did the exact opposite of what their allies expected once they took office.

As US News and World Report notes, critics already have plenty of fodder for her confirmation hearings. One case which inflamed conservatives is her concurrence against a group of white firefighters who sued over a hiring policy that gave preference to minorities. This is already being highlighted in advertisements by the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network.

Expect a brutal confirmation battle for Sotomayor. Republicans are caught in a battle between ideological pragmatists like former Secretary of State Colin Powell and purists along the lines of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Republicans in Congress are not likely going to give an inch to Obama on Sotomayor's nomination. If she wins confirmation in the Senate, it likely will be along party lines.

Conservatives are likely seeing Sotomayor as a template for future court battles. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is fighting pancreatic cancer. Justice John Paul Stevens is nearly 90 years old. Justice David Souter, who Sotomayor is replacing, is resigning because he has grown tired of life in Washington.

This is a helluva way to pick someone who is nearly as powerful as the President.


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