Who replaced Sonia Sotomayor

US Supreme Court : Right with the majority

Barack Obama reportedly planned which constitutional judges he would nominate as president and prepared a list before his election. It was foreseeable that this would happen. The nine members of the Supreme Court are appointed for life. Only death or resignation ends their work. The senior, John Paul Stephens, is 89 years old; President Ford nominated him in 1975. With Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 76 years old and in poor health, some speculate that she will resign from her position in the foreseeable future. Bill Clinton proposed it in 1993.

But in April, a surprising development gave Obama the opportunity to get his list out earlier than expected. The 69-year-old David Souter, who was appointed under President Bush Sr. in 1990, announced his resignation. He wants to enjoy his old age in his vacation home in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and do legal research. Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor on May 26th.

When selecting a constitutional judge, a president has two main goals. He is looking for a person who is close to the worldview of his own party, but who at the same time has the prospect of successfully passing the extensive interviews in the Senate. Because it can only be appointed if a majority there approves. Ideally, the senators from the other camp also give their consent. There is a tension between the two goals. The party base demands someone they consider “one of us”. However, nominations for which the professional qualification is in doubt or for which the résumé is open to attack, for example through statements that reveal an ideological one-sidedness, increase the risk of rejection in the Senate. That would be interpreted as a severe setback for the president.

Under George W. Bush there was illustrative material for both variants. He brought two new Conservative judges to the Supreme Court, Chairman John Roberts and Samuel Alito, influencing its composition for decades. The Republicans see this as a success. Some say that the two judges are the most important because the longest-running legacy of Bush. In autumn 2005, however, he also had to withdraw Harriet Miers as a candidate because she encountered resistance in both camps. During this time, Bush lost influence on political events.

According to the request of the Democrats, Obama should compensate for the swing to the right by Bush's new judge by proposing progressives. In fact, neither Bush nor Obama can change the ideological balance of the Supreme Court much. For a long time there has been an approximate stalemate there, with four conservative and three liberal judges as well as two moderates who help one side or the other to achieve a 5: 4 majority by changing positions. Bush was allowed to choose successors for two judges who had been chosen by Republicans themselves. Obama is allowed to replace judges who were once appointed by Democrats like Ginsburg. Or those who came into office at the suggestion of a Republican, but mostly on the side of the progressives in the judgments, such as Souter or Stephens.

In choosing Sonia Sotomayor, tactical considerations about the procedure in the Senate played just as big a role as speculation about which positions she will take as chief judge. Obama has coldly calculated that Republicans can hardly afford to reject his candidate - or pay a high political price. There are two reasons for this: she is a woman; since Sandra Day O'Connor's resignation in 2005, there is only one chief judge, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. More importantly, Sotomayor would be the first Latina to stand on the Supreme Court. Latinos are the largest minority in the United States and a key electoral group. Without their votes, Republicans have little chance of gaining majorities across the country.

Obama presents them with a brutal choice: to vote for his candidate or to upset the Latinos by rejecting them. The Republicans are testing possible points of attack. For example, Sotomayor had said, “I hope that, thanks to the richness of her life experience, a wise Latina will, in the majority of cases, reach a better judgment than a white man who lacks that experience.” Conservatives have tried to interpret this as reverse racism , and accused her of wanting to promote minorities so strongly that it would disadvantage the majority. She herself has benefited from the “affirmative action” in favor of the disadvantaged. She was born in New York, Bronx in 1954. Her parents were from Puerto Rico. She studied at Princeton and Yale, worked as a prosecutor and federal judge.

During the Senate hearing, which lasts several weeks, there will be questions about their position on the major ideological issues: abortion, the promotion of minorities and the extent to which the 222-year-old constitution is applied to modern legal conflicts. Everyone involved knows: Sotomayor will speak competently about the respective problem without specifically answering how she would decide. If she did, she would be considered biased if a similar case comes before the court one day. If she does not make this or any other mistake in the hearing, she will probably be confirmed and will be chief judge from the fall.

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