President Obama Nominates Sotomayor


(applause) The President:
Thank you. Thank you. Well, I’m excited, too. (laughter) Of the many
responsibilities granted to a President by our Constitution,
few are more serious or more consequential than selecting
a Supreme Court justice. The members of our highest
court are granted life tenure, often serving long after the
Presidents who appointed them. And they are charged with
the vital task of applying principles put to paper more
than 20 centuries ago to some of the most difficult
questions of our time. So I don’t take this
decision lightly. I’ve made it only after deep reflection and careful deliberation. While there are many qualities
that I admire in judges across the spectrum of
judicial philosophy, and that I seek
in my own nominee, there are few that stand out
that I just want to mention. First and foremost is 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. Second is a recognition of the
limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge’s
job is to interpret, not make, law; to approach decisions
without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a
commitment to impartial justice; a respect for precedent and a
determination to faithfully apply the law to
the facts at hand. These two qualities are
essential, I believe, for anyone who would sit on
our nation’s highest court. And yet, these qualities
alone are insufficient. We need something more. For as Supreme Court Justice
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “The life of the law
has not been logic; it has been experience.” Experience being tested
by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune;
experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately
overcoming those barriers. It is experience that can give
a person a common touch and a sense of compassion; an
understanding of how the world works and how
ordinary people live. And that is why it is a
necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need
on the Supreme Court. The process of reviewing and
selecting a successor to Justice Souter has been rigorous
and comprehensive, not least because of the
standard that Justice Souter himself has set with his
formidable intellect and fair-mindedness and decency. I’ve sought the advice of
members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, including
every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. My team has reached out to
constitutional scholars, advocacy organizations, and bar
associations representing an array of interests and opinions. And I want to thank members of
my staff and administration who’ve worked so hard and given
so much of their time as part of this effort. After completing this
exhaustive process, I have decided to nominate an
inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice: Judge
Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York. (applause) Over a distinguished career
that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked
at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her
with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will
be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice. It’s a measure of her qualities
and her qualifications that Judge Sotomayor was nominated to the U. S. District Court by a Republican President, George H.W. Bush, and promoted to the
Federal Court of Appeals by a Democrat, Bill Clinton. Walking in the door she would
bring more experience on the bench, and more varied
experience on the bench, than anyone currently serving on
the United States Supreme Court had when they were appointed. Judge Sotomayor is a
distinguished graduate of two of America’s leading universities. She’s been a big-city prosecutor
and a corporate litigator. She spent six years as
a trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and would
replace Justice Souter as the only justice with
experience as a trial judge, a perspective that would enrich
the judgments of the Court. For the past 11 years she has
been a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit of New York, one of the most demanding
circuits in the country. There she has handed down
decisions on a range of constitutional and legal questions that are notable for their careful reasoning, earning the respect of colleagues on the bench, the admiration of many lawyers who argue cases in her court, and the adoration of her clerks who look to her as a mentor. During her tenure on
the District Court, she presided over
roughly 450 cases. One case in particular involved
a matter of enormous concern to many Americans, including
me: the baseball strike of 1994-1995. (laughter) In a decision that reportedly
took her just 15 minutes to announce, a swiftness much
appreciated by baseball fans everywhere — (laughter) –she issued an injunction
that helped end the strike. Some say that Judge
Sotomayor saved baseball. (applause) Judge Sotomayor came to the
District Court from a law firm where she was a partner
focused on complex commercial litigation, gaining insight into the workings of a global economy. Before that she was a prosecutor
in the Manhattan DA’s office, serving under the legendary
Robert Morgenthau, an early mentor of Sonia’s who
still sings her praises today. There, Sonia learned what
crime can do to a family and a community, and what
it takes to fight it. It’s a career that has given her
not only a sweeping overview of the American judicial system,
but a practical understanding of how the law works in the
everyday lives of the American people. But as impressive and meaningful
as Judge Sotomayor’s sterling credentials in the law is her
own extraordinary journey. Born in the South Bronx, she was
raised in a housing project not far from Yankee Stadium, making
her a lifelong Yankee’s fan. I hope this will not
disqualify her — (laughter) –in the eyes of the New
Englanders in the Senate. (laughter) Sonia’s parents came to New York
from Puerto Rico during the second world war, her mother as
part of the Women’s Army Corps. And, in fact, her mother is here
today and I’d like us all to acknowledge Sonia’s mom. (applause) Sonia’s mom has been
a little choked up. (Laughter) But she, Sonia’s mother, began a
family tradition of giving back to this country. Sonia’s father was a factory
worker with a 3rd-grade education who didn’t
speak English. But like Sonia’s mother, he had
a willingness to work hard, a strong sense of family, and a
belief in the American Dream. When Sonia was nine,
her father passed away. And her mother worked six days a
week as a nurse to provide for Sonia and her brother —
who is also here today, is a doctor and a terrific
success in his own right. But Sonia’s mom bought the only
set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood, sent her children
to a Catholic school called Cardinal Spellman out of
the belief that with a good education here in America
all things are possible. With the support of family,
friends, and teachers, Sonia earned scholarships
to Princeton, where she graduated at
the top of her class, and Yale Law School, where she
was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, stepping onto the
path that led her here today. Along the way she’s faced down
barriers, overcome the odds, lived out the American Dream
that brought her parents here so long ago. And even as she has accomplished
so much in her life, she has never forgotten
where she began, never lost touch with the
community that supported her. What Sonia will bring
to the Court, then, is not only the knowledge and
experience acquired over a course of a brilliant
legal career, but the wisdom accumulated from
an inspiring life’s journey. It’s my understanding that Judge
Sotomayor’s interest in the law was sparked as a young girl by
reading the Nancy Drew series — (laughter) — and that when she was
diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight, she was informed
that people with diabetes can’t grow up to be police officers or
private investigators like
Nancy Drew. And that’s when she was told
she’d have to scale back her dreams. Well, Sonia, what you’ve shown
in your life is that it doesn’t matter where you come
from, what you look like, or what challenges life throws
your way — no dream is beyond reach in the United
States of America. And when Sonia Sotomayor ascends
those marble steps to assume her seat on the highest
court of the land, America will have taken another
important step towards realizing the ideal that is etched above
its entrance: Equal justice under the law. I hope the Senate acts
in a bipartisan fashion, as it has in confirming Judge
Sotomayor twice before, and as swiftly as possible so
that she can take her seat on the Court in September and
participate in deliberations as the Court chooses which cases
it will hear this coming year. And with that, I’d like all of
you to give a warm greeting as I invite Judge Sotomayor
to say a few words. (applause) Judge Sotomayor: I was just
counseled not to be nervous. (laughter) That’s almost impossible. (laughter) Thank you, Mr. President, for
the most humbling honor of my life. You have nominated me to serve
on the country’s highest court, and I am deeply moved. I could not, in the few
minutes I have today, mention the names of the many
friends and family who have guided and supported me
throughout my life and who have been instrumental in helping
me realize my dreams. I see many of those
faces in this room. Each of you, whom I love deeply,
will know that my heart today is bursting with gratitude for
all you have done for me. The President has said to
you that I bring my family. In the audience is my brother,
Juan Sotomayor — he’s a physician in Syracuse, New York; my sister-in-law, Tracey; my niece, Kylie — she looks like me — (laughter) — my twin
nephews, Conner and Corey. I stand on the shoulders
of countless people, yet there is one extraordinary
person who is my life aspiration — that person is my
mother, Celina Sotomayor. (applause) My mother has devoted her
life to my brother and me, and as the President mentioned,
she worked often two jobs to help support us after Dad died. I have often said that I
am all I am because of her, and I am only half
the woman she is. Sitting next to
her is Omar Lopez, my mom’s husband and a man
whom I have grown to adore. I thank you for all that you
have given me and continue to give me. I love you. (applause) I chose to be a lawyer,
and ultimately a judge, because I find endless challenge
in the complexities of the law. I firmly believe in the rule of
law as the foundation for all of our basic rights. For as long as I can remember,
I have been inspired by the achievement of our
Founding Fathers. They set forth principles that
have endured for more than two centuries. Those principles are as
meaningful and relevant in each generation as the
generation before. It would be a profound privilege
for me to play a role in applying those principles to the
questions and controversies we face today. Although I grew up in very
modest and challenging circumstances, I consider my
life to be immeasurably rich. I was raised in a Bronx
public housing project, but studied at two of the
nation’s finest universities. I did work as an assistant
district attorney, prosecuting violent crimes that
devastate our communities. But then I joined a private
law firm and worked with international corporations doing
business in the United States. I have had the privilege of
serving as a Federal District Court trial judge, and am now serving as a Federal Appellate Circuit Court judge. This wealth of experiences,
personal and professional, have helped me appreciate the
variety of perspectives that present themselves in
every case that I hear. It has helped me to
understand, respect, and respond to the concerns and
arguments of all litigants who appear before me, as well as to the views of my colleagues on the bench. I strive never to forget the
real-world consequences of my decisions on individuals,
businesses, and government. It is a daunting
feeling to be here. Eleven years ago, during my
confirmation process for appointment to the
Second Circuit, I was given a private
tour of the White House. It was an overwhelming
experience for a kid from the South Bronx. Yet never in my wildest
childhood imaginings did I ever envision that moment, let alone
did I ever dream that I would live this moment. Mr. President, I greatly
appreciate the honor you are giving me, and I look forward to
working with the Senate in the confirmation process. I hope that as the Senate and
the American people learn more about me they will see that I am
an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary
opportunities and experiences. Today is one of
those experiences. Thank you again, sir. (applause)

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