Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nominations and Confirmations: The Next Supreme Court Justice

Today, President Obama announced 2d Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his pick to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter, who plans to retire later this year. [NY Times] As you may recall from the recent appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, Sotomayor’s nomination will have to be confirmed first by the Senate Judiciary Committee and then by a majority of the Senate.

For updated discussion and analysis of the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process, check out SCOTUSblog (http://www.scotusblog.com/wp/) and the National Journal’s new blog Ninth Justice (http://ninthjustice.nationaljournal.com/).

For general background on the nomination process, the 2008 Congressional Research Service report Supreme Court Appointment Process: Roles of the President,
Judiciary Committee, and Senate (http://wikileaks.org/leak/crs/RL31989.pdf) provides useful commentary. A companion report, Supreme Court Nominations
Not Confirmed, 1789-2007 (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31171.pdf) discusses the 36 of 158 nominations which were not confirmed by the Senate (remember Harriet Miers?). Numerous works on the Supreme Court’s history and procedures can also be found in our own U.S. Supreme Court Research Guide (http://www.law.duke.edu/lib/researchguides/ussup) .

Want to learn more about Judge Sotomayor, potentially the first Hispanic-American to serve on the nation's highest court? Check out the biographical directories listed in our research guide to Directories of Courts and Judges (http://www.law.duke.edu/lib/researchguides/dircourts) for detailed information. The New York Times recently published a profile of her career (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/us/15sotomayor.html), highlighting her role in ending the 1995 Major League Baseball strike. You can also download the webcast of her 2005 appearance at Duke Law School’s Judicial Clerkship Information Panel (http://www.law.duke.edu/webcast/?match=Sonia+Sotomayor), which has already caused controversy in the blogosphere for Sotomayor’s response to a question about the relative merits of circuit court clerkships over district court clerkships:

“[T]hey're looking for people with court of appeals experience, because it is -- court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know -- and I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don't make law, I know. [laughter] OK, I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it, I'm -- you know. OK. Having said that, the court of appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating -- its interpretation, its application.”

Will this comment be questioned at Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings? You can all but count on it.