Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | 2:08 a.m.
As a candidate, President Barack Obama said his ideal Supreme Court nominee, in addition to having a legal record of excellence and integrity, would be someone who is “attuned to the daily realities of people’s lives.”
On Tuesday Obama honored those words when he nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City to replace retiring Justice David Souter.
Sotomayor’s personal story is as admirable as her legal record is sterling. Of Puerto Rican heritage, she was born in the Bronx and her knowledge of the “daily realities of people’s lives” came early, as she was raised in a public-housing project.
Hardship came early, too, as she was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8 and suffered the loss of her factory-worker father a year later. Her mother, a nurse, worked long hours to put her through Catholic schools.
Sotomayor showed her appreciation, graduating as valedictorian and earning a scholarship to Princeton University, where she graduated with honors.
She went on to Yale Law School, achieving an academic record that led to these top jobs:
• Prosecutor with the Manhattan district attorney’s office;
• Partner at a prestigious law firm, where she specialized in corporate law;
• Federal trial judge (nominated by President George H.W. Bush);
• Federal appellate judge (nominated by President Bill Clinton), where she has contributed to more than 3,000 panel decisions and has written about 400 opinions.
As a federal judge in 1995, she became known for “saving baseball” when she ruled against team owners to end a long players strike.
President Obama, speaking Tuesday, said “a rigorous intellect, a mastery of the law, an ability to hone in on the key issues and provide clear answers to complex legal questions” were some of the qualities that impressed him about Sotomayor.
He also said a judge should “approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice” — qualities that define Sotomayor.
The New York Times reported that Senate Republicans might challenge Sotomayor’s nomination. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., however, told Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston, “I don’t know how they could oppose her. I don’t know on what basis.”
We share that view. Sotomayor’s life experiences, academic and professional achievements, reasoned decisions and work ethic have brought her numerous accolades from her peers. She is an exceptionally well-qualified nominee.