Today, Sonia Sotomayor made history, becoming the first Latina to be confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States. Following the hearings held a few weeks ago, she was confirmed by a bipartisan vote of 68-31, becoming the third woman to grace the bench. With the announcement for her nomination coinciding with the annual Scripps National Spelling held in Washington D.C., it was only expected to imagine what the candidates and the rest of the nation would make of the word, "Sotomayor."
Born on June 25, 1954 to Puerto Rican immigrants, Sotomayor rose from the projects of Bronx, New York, living in a single parent home headed by her mother, after her father died when she was only nine. Following his passing, her mother raised Sonia and her brother, Juan, seeking out educational opportunities for them and for herself. Her mother would study to become a nurse while Sotomayor's pursuit of educational excellence would lead her first to Princeton University and then to Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Review. Her brother would go on to become a physician and medical professor.
The Sotomayor's meteoric rise amid hard times and obstacles in many ways mirrors that of the Robinson family. The Robinsons like the Sotomayors raised their children, Michelle and Craig, giving them the foundation that would steer them both towards Princeton University and then Harvard Law School for Michelle Obama. The story of these two families merging at this confluence in history is a reminder that there is no substitute for hard work and that perseverance always leads to success in the end.
When Sotomayor is sworn into office, she will replace the retired Justice David Souter who stepped down after nineteen years on the bench. Sotomayor's appointment is indeed significant not just because she is a female, but especially because she is a minority and Latina. Sotomayor has been championed by Latinas all over the United States who have given her almost unanimous support. Hence, it will be interesting to note the effects if any that her appointment will have on Latino consciousness in the United States.
Latinos are increasing becoming the biggest minority group in the United States, but their growth has not come with much success in the public arena. Latinos are still under represented in educational institutions and in public office. However, they have become and economic force to reckon with, as well as major players with respect to increasing crime rates and social vices in most major urban cities. The rate of Latino incarceration is increasing as more young Latino males and females participate in gang activity and crime.
Will Sotomayor's appointment to office awaken the Latino consciousness and steer most inner city Latinos who would otherwise be given to crime in a positive direction?
It is without doubt that when push comes to shove, Justice Sotomayor will side with Latinos, but will her presence be a force enough to bring about a positive influence? Now, this raises questions of bias as it relates to the law. We are constantly reminded that Lady Liberty is blind folded, alluding to the notion that she metes out justice without preference. However, precedent shows that the justice system in the United States is not blind. For if the justice system were blind, Presidents when nominating individuals to the office of the Supreme Court will not factor in the candidates opinion on issues such as abortion or the death penalty.
For if the law were blind, Barack Obama would have nominated a hard-core Republican whose views on abortion ran along the lines of fire and brimstone. Further, in his search for Supreme Court justices, George W. Bush would have never nominated Samuel Alito, John Roberts, or Harriet Miers. So, we do see that even with the nominations there is a deep level of bias, with Presidents making nominations of people who are sympathetic to the ideals of their parties.
So, if the nominations are made with bias, is it not a stretch to expect the Justices to be impartial?
When Sotomayor takes the office, she will bring a wealth of legal experience and the head of a very wise Latina who will vie to leave her imprint on the justice system of the Unites States of America.