Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Hope for a Hispanic on the Supreme Court

Justice David H. Souter’s departure from the Supreme Court allows President Barack Obama to make another historic move by appointing the first Hispanic to the nation’s highest court.

White House officials believe that this is the first of at least two more appointments for Obama. Justices John Paul Stevens, 89, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76, are mentioned often as possibilities to leave, though neither has given such an indication.

The expectation of additional future appointments would give Obama more leeway to not respond to demands from groups who are hoping to influence his first Supreme Court nomination.  With Hispanic legal groups calling for the court’s first Latino member, the pressure is mounting on Obama. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus told Obama that “appointing our nation’s first Hispanic justice would undoubtedly be welcomed by our community and bring greater diversity of thought, perspective and experience to the nation’s legal system.”

Congressional aides said that Obama’s administration has been reaching out to Hispanic members to get their input on the president’s choice including CHC Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez and Vice Chair Charlie Gonzalez.

Nevertheless, both the White House and Hispanic groups are trying to avoid the perception that appointing a Hispanic to the bench would be because of a demand by Hispanic interest groups. An anonymous White House official said, “Public lobbying campaigns might be more unhelpful than helpful. At the end of the day, the president will decide based on the qualities that he outlined the day that Justice Souter announced his retirement.”

The most prominent Hispanic candidate is Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York. She is under serious consideration by the White House; not only is she a Hispanic, but she is also a woman.

Ramona Romero, president of the Hispanic National Bar Association said, “We are talking here about a woman who graduated from Princeton summa cum laude, went to Yale Law School, is an outstanding scholar. We don’t believe Judge Sotomayor requires any defense; we believe her record speaks for itself. We think she’s one — and I want to emphasize, one of many — excellent candidates.”

Estuardo Rodriguez, a founding member of the group called Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary said, “It’s not solely the mission of Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary that the next nominee be of Hispanic descent.”  He emphasized that the nominee be someone who has “the understanding that civil rights is a given right.”

HFJ said there are 82 Hispanic judges on the federal bench and state courts in case the President does not want to choose a federal appeals judge. Of only seven Hispanic appeals court judges appointed by Democrats, only Sotomayor and Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw of the 9th Circuit in California are younger than 60.

Another Hispanic possibility could be Judge Ruben Castillo of the Northern District of Illinois, a member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

New York’s Democratic Senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have already sent a letter to Obama recommending Sotomayor or Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former Attorney General and U.S. Senator from Colorado.

Washington Post


  1. This could be quite a change!