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Sotomayor confirmed as first Hispanic Supreme Court judge

Video by Oliver FARRY


Latest update : 2009-08-06

The US Senate has approved the nomination of justice Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, making her the first Hispanic appointed to the lifetime post. President Barack Obama said the confirmation marked "a wonderful day for America".

REUTERS - Judge Sonia Sotomayor won U.S. Senate approval on Thursday to become the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Democratic-led Senate voted largely along party lines, 68-31, to approve President Barack Obama’s nomination of Sotomayor for the lifetime appointment on the highest U.S. court.

The large number of Republican “no” votes reflected the party’s resistance to the Democratic president on several fronts including his bid to overhaul healthcare.

When sworn in, Sotomayor, 55, a federal appeals judge in New York since 1998, will be the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the 220-year-old Supreme Court.

“Another barrier has been broken in American life,” said Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent who voted for Sotomayor, the daughter of Puerto Rican parents who was born in poverty.

Democrats hailed Sotomayor as fair-minded but Republicans charged she lacked impartiality.

Critics had zeroed in on her past comments that a “wise Latina” woman might reach a better decision than a white man.

At her confirmation hearing Sotomayor, a federal judge for 17 years, offered no apology but said a jurist had to guard against internal prejudice.

Guestions remain

In replacing retired Justice David Souter, Sotomayor is not expected to change the court’s ideological balance. Souter sided with the liberal wing of the court, which in recent years often issued 5-4 rulings in favor of conservatives.

If history holds true, it may take years to determine what sort of justice she will be.

The appointment underscores an effort by Obama, six months in office, to move the court to the left after eight years of rightward pushing by his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush.

As a senator, Obama voted against Bush’s two successful Supreme Court nominees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

The Supreme Court is the final judicial arbiter and rules on matters from abortion and gun rights to anti-trust laws, the death penalty and civil rights.

In opposing Sotomayor, Republicans risk a backlash from her fellow Hispanics, the fastest growing U.S. minority.

Janet Murguia of the National Council of La Raza, a major Hispanic civil rights group, said: “This vote will matter—and it will be long remembered.”

Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. population and voted by a two-to-one margin for Obama in the 2008 presidential election.

But Republicans seemed unconcerned. They said many Hispanics were conservatives and more interested in such issues as jobs and the economy.

Date created : 2009-08-06