Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court this week has stirred an outpouring of favorable reaction from some of the most prominent advocacy groups focused on the legal rights of women, Latinas and Hispanics.
(WOMENSENEWS)--A who's who of advocacy groups for women and Hispanics have been giving a standing ovation this week to President Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter.
"I think it is a phenomenal nomination for the country and a monumental one for the Hispanic community," said Maria Cardona, founding member of Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary. "She had a top-notch education and finished first in her class at Princeton and in the top 1 percentile at Yale Law School. She will bring more depth and breadth than any juror in a hundred years if she is appointed to the Supreme Court."
Cardona, who served as senior advisor on Hispanic outreach for Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's presidential campaign, spoke with Women's eNews in a brief telephone interview. Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary is leading a coalition of organizations that plan to push for Sotomayor's speedy confirmation.
Sotomayor's parents moved before she was born from Puerto Rico to the Bronx, a New York City borough with a large presence of those leaving the island to look for work. Sotomayor, now 54, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was 8 years old and the following year her father passed away. She lived with her mother in a housing project until she attended Princeton University, from which she graduated Summa cum Laude in 1976.
Towering Intellect, Common Touch
"It was a great day, I am absolutely delighted," said Kathleen McDowell, president of the National Conference of Women's Bar Associations, an organization of women's bar associations that was formed in 1983. The organization provides a forum for exchanging ideas and information vital to organizational growth and success in today's law profession.
"We encouraged President Obama to appoint a woman for Supreme Court Justice to promote diversity amongst the Supreme Court and are pleased he has done so," said Lisa Harowitz, president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, in an interview. Her Chicago-based group was formed in 1989 and serves as an educational forum and an active voice for the concerns of women in the legal profession.
"President Obama said he wanted a justice with 'towering intellect' and a 'common touch' and he found both in Judge Sotomayor," said NOW, the National Organization for Women, in a press statement. The organization is now working to launch its "Confirm Her" campaign, which will work to encourage a prompt confirmation of Sotomayor.
"Judge Sotomayor will help add balance to the court and her unique perspective will help ensure that women's rights are protected," said Ellen R. Malcolm, president of EMILY's List, the Washington, D.C.-based group dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women.
Ordinary Folks, Extraordinary Opportunities
Sotomayor, (pronounced: soto-may-OR) is a 1979 graduate of Yale Law School. She broke ground in 1992 when President George H. Bush appointed her to the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, making her the state's first Hispanic federal judge. In 1998, President Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Sotomayor is known in legal circles for a ruling that brought back Major League Baseball from its 1995 strike. She ordered franchise owners to restore free-agent bidding, salary arbitration and other terms of the expired collective bargaining agreement.
"Our reaction is one of joy and hope," said Lorena Slomanson, president of La Raza of San Diego. "This falls in line with the wave that Obama has created of ordinary folks with extraordinary opportunities getting the chance to make a difference."
La Raza, founded in 1968, is a national civil rights and advocacy organization that works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. It is the largest Hispanic organization of its type, reaching millions of Hispanics in the United States and Puerto Rico.
"She has really earned this nomination through her vast experience as a judge," Ramona Romero, president of the National Hispanic Bar Association, said in an interview. "She perhaps may be the most experienced justice in the past hundred years."
National Hispanic Bar Association, based in Washington, D.C., represents the interests of Hispanic attorneys, judges, law professors, legal assistants and law students in the United States.
"Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination by President Obama is historic and exciting for us as women and especially as Latinas," Rossana Rosado, publisher and CEO of the New York Spanish-language daily El Diario la Prense, told Women's eNews. "Every boy and girl in the Bronx today knows that another door just opened for them." El Diario la Prense is the oldest daily Spanish newspaper in the country.
"I'm deeply proud of this moment," Julissa Reynoso, a Latina associate at the New York law firm Simpson, Thacher and Bartlett, said in an interview. "The most interesting part to me was her level of humanity during her nomination announcement. What other justice would speak about their mother at this time? This truly shows what kind of a person she is. You can see her morals and her ways of thinking through who she thinks is important at a time like this."
Sandra Garcia, executive director and CEO of the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, a nonprofit arts service organization in New York City, was also thrilled. The nonprofit was formed under the Hispanic Federation in 2007 with a mission to cultivate, support and promote the works of artists and arts organizations in northern Manhattan, where many Spanish speakers live and work.
"I think she will represent us all, women and Hispanics. This is an advancement for all of us," Garcia said.
Kayla Hutzler, a journalism major at Manhattan College, is an editorial intern with Women's eNews.
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Federal Judicial Center; Sonia Sotomayor
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