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Sotomayor: Broad Personal And Professional Experience

5039543As a Puerto Rican woman who grew up in the projects of the Bronx, Sonia Sotomayor would bring diversity of opinion and perspective to the Supreme Court. She would also bring 16 years of court experience with her, a history of bipartisan support, and a reputation as the "savior of baseball."

President Obama has chosen Sotomayor, 54, to replace retiring Justice David Souter. If confirmed, she would be the third woman ever to sit on the Court and the first ever Hispanic.

She currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which she joined in 1998 after being nominated by President Clinton and undergoing a 15-month confirmation process. From 1992 through 1998, she served as a federal judge for the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, a position to which she was nominated by President George H.W. Bush.

Mr. Obama noted that Sotomayor's professional experience will give her "a depth of experience and a breath of perspective." Moreover, her humble life beginnings reflect Mr. Obama's desire to nominate a candidate with "an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live."

Sotomayor was born in New York in 1954 to parents from Puerto Rico. She lived in a Bronx housing project and was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight. Her father, a factory worker, died when Sotomayor was nine, leaving her to the care of her mother, a nurse in a methadone clinic. Sotomayor has said she developed an interest in law watching Perry Mason on television.

She won a scholarship to Princeton University and graduated summa cum laude in 1976. From there, she continued to Yale Law School, where she was the editor of the law journal and received her J.D. degree in 1979.

As a prosecutor in the New York County District Attorney's Office from 1979 through 1984 she handled cases involving robberies, assaults, murders, and child pornography. She joined the private firm Pavia & Harcourt in 1984 and specialized in areas including intellectual property and copyright law.

In 1995, Sotomayor famously took no more than 15 minutes to end the eight-month baseball strike that resulted in the cancellation of the World Series. She issued an injunction against major league baseball owners, calling their labor practices unfair.

In another high-profile case during her tenure as a district judge, Sotomayor permitted the Wall Street Journal to publish under the Freedom of Information Act a suicide note from White House attorney Vince Foster.

Sotomayor has written more than 150 opinions since becoming an appellate judge in 1998, and some of her decisions have been overturned by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in April of this year heard the arguments for another case over which Sotomayor presided. She joined the controversial opinion of a three-judge panel in February 2008 that rejected an appeal by a group of New Haven, Conn. firefighters protesting the fire department's promotion process.

The fire department gave the firefighters a test to evaluate candidates for promotion but threw out the results of the test because there were not enough high-scoring minority candidates. The plaintiffs in the case argued it was unfair they were denied a promotion on the basis of race.

The Supreme Court next year may review another case in which Sotomayor was involved. In Maloney v. Cuomo, Sotomayor was part of a panel that upheld a New York state law banning the possession of a martial-arts weapon known as a nunchaku. A New York attorney claimed the law violated his Second Amendment rights, but a district court ruled the Second Amendment does not apply to the states, and the appeals court affirmed that ruling.

The Supreme Court overturned one of Sotomayor's most high profile environmental cases: Riverkeeper, Inc. vs. EPA. In that case, Sotomayor ruled with a panel that conducting a cost-benefit analysis was not an acceptable way for the Environmental Protection Agency to determine compliance with a rule in the Clean Water Act requiring the use of the "best technology available" to limit the environmental impact of power plants on nearby aquatic life. Instead, she said, the EPA could only determine which technology could be reasonably borne by the power plants. The Supreme Court, in a 6 - 3 ruling, said Sotomayor's interpretation of the Clean Water Act was too narrow.

Sotomayor has not addressed abortion directly on the Circuit Court, but in her opinion for Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, she denied a claim from an abortion rights group arguing that a Bush administration policy violated its First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights. The "Mexico City Policy" prohibited foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions. In her opinion, she said the government "is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position" with public funds.

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