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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today with great pride to express my support for the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, the Senate is on the verge of a historic decision in confirming Judge Sotomayor. She brings a wealth of experience to this lifetime appointment, with 17 years of service on the judicial bench--more than any member of the current court. She has served as a prosecutor, a trial judge, an appellate judge and has also worked as an attorney in the private sector.

In fact, with the retirement of Justice David Souter and the confirmation of Judge Sotomayor, she will become the only justice on the current Supreme Court with experience as a trial judge. This experience gives her a perspective that will be a much-needed addition to the Court.

If we confirm her today--and I am confident we will--Judge Sotomayor will become the nation's first Hispanic in history to sit on the highest court in the land, and only the third female Justice. Women, Latinos and Latinas--indeed all Americans--can join in celebrating these significant milestones. Judge Sotomayor embodies the progress our country has achieved, and yet I know she would agree with me that there is much more to be done.

According to the American Bar Association, women comprise 47 percent of all law students, as compared to 1947, when women made up 3 percent of law students. That is significant progress. I firmly believe that for Hispanics, Judge Sotomayor's appointment will mark the beginning of a new era of steady progress. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, today only about 4 percent of lawyers and 3 percent of judges are of Hispanic descent.

Judge Sotomayor will serve as an able Associate Justice. She will also serve as a tremendous role model for law students and other young people thinking about entering the legal profession and for those who aspire to become judges. Her confirmation and service on the U.S. Supreme Court will serve to accelerate progress into the future.

Like election of the president who appointed her, Judge Sotomayor's confirmation says to young people of all incomes and backgrounds: You can be anything you want to be.

All of us have been moved by Judge Sotomayor's personal story--of her upbringing in the Bronx by a working mother, and her rise from those humble beginnings to graduate in one of Princeton University's first classes to include women. From there she went on to Yale Law School, where she excelled, and then to a coveted post--one of the few held by women--in the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney.

With her record of solid experience, clearly Judge Sotomayor is ready to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. In rating Judge Sotomayor, the American Bar Association conducted confidential interviews with a large number of judges and litigants who have worked with her or argued cases in her court. The ABA unanimously found Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be ``well qualified,'' the highest rating the association can give a judicial nominee.

Judge Sotomayor has received support from Democrats and Republicans, law enforcement groups and civil rights organizations. Among these groups are the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Fraternal Order of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, Women's Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the NAACP.

I agree with the Hispanic National Bar Association, which said that Judge Sotomayor ``embodies all the qualities required for service as a Justice and are confident that, when confirmed, she will render fair and impartial justice for all Americans.''

The National Association of Women Lawyers has noted that Judge Sotomayor's record, ``establishes her lack of gender, racial, ethnic or religious bias and her willingness to maintain and open mind, deciding cases on the record before her.''

Throughout her 17 years on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has shown a respect for established precedent and deference to the role of the elected branches of government. She made this point clear in the meeting I had with her shortly after President Obama nominated her for the post. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, CRS, stated that ``perhaps the most consistent characteristic of Judge Sotomayor's approach as an appellate judge has been an adherence to'' existing judicial precedent.

In her meeting with me and in testimony before the Judiciary Committee, Judge Sotomayor repeatedly acknowledged the right to privacy is enshrined in our Constitution. I believe she will preserve that right.

President Obama made a wise choice in selecting Judge Sotomayor to serve on our highest court. She has demonstrated her integrity and intellect throughout the thorough confirmation process. Having followed her confirmation hearings closely, I am confident that Judge Sotomayor not only has a deep understanding of the law and great respect for precedent. I am confident she will make a fine associate justice.


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