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Obama Nominates Sonia Sotomayor; Offers Hope for Women Everywhere

by Jennifer Nedeau

Editor's Note: This article was originally posted 5/26/09 on the Women's Rights -

By now hopefully you've heard the news - President Obama has nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the next Supreme Court Justice to replace Justice Souter. Undoubtedly, her nomination process will be tough given the criticism already rising from the Right saying she's "not of the intellectual firebrand, a disappointment from liberals" and that there are "better options" out there. Oh yeah, and this guy thinks she's a "racist" and a radio host today called her an "intellectual light-weight because she is a woman."

I find all of these excuses to be complete bullshit, clearly.

For those who are still in the dark about WHY she's a great mind, a great intellectual and a great pick, here is some additional information compiled by CNN on her judicial resume:

Judicial Career: U.S. Appeals Court judge, 2nd Circuit (1998-present); U.S. District Court judge (1992-1998); Nominated to federal bench by Bush in 1991, Clinton in 1997

Government/Legal Career: Former N.Y. County Assistant District Attorney (1979-1984); Former private practice attorney, Pavia & Harcourt, New York (1984-1992)

Notable cases:

Sided with environmentalists in a 2007 case that would have allowed the EPA to consider the cost-effectiveness of protecting fish and aquatic life in rivers and lakes located near power plants.

Supported the right to sue national investment firms in state court, rather than in federal court.

Mexico City policy: Sotomayor ruled against an abortion rights group in its challenge to the so-called "Mexico City Policy," which states that nations that receive U.S. funds may neither perform nor promote abortions. The abortion rights advocates alleged that the policy violated their First Amendment, due process, and equal protection rights. Sotomayor upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the case, saying that the group's First Amendment rights had not been violated and that it had not been denied due process.

Wrote the 2008 opinion supporting the City of New Haven's decision to throw out the results of a firefighter promotion exam because almost no minorities qualified for promotions. The Supreme Court heard the case in April 2009 and a final opinion is pending.

Major League Baseball Strike: As a district court judge, Sotomayor issued an injunction against team owners for alleged violations of the National Labor Relations Act during collective bargaining negotiations with the MLB players association. The owners had sought to end the system of free agency and salary arbitration and imposed a lock-out against players as negotiations began to break down. The ruling ended the longest baseball strike in history.

And of course, with her we also have a LATINA FEMALE nominated to the Supreme Court. If her nomination goes through, she will be the first of her kind to sit on that bench.

Now, why, is this important you might ask?

Well, for one, as Justice Ruth Ginsberg said in a recent USA Today article about a strip search case and the response of her fellow colleagues:

"They have never been a 13-year-old girl," she told USA TODAY later when asked about her colleagues' comments during the arguments. "It's a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn't think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood."

To put it simply - there are just certain things that you can't learn in law school. Namely, what it is like to be born with a uterus. And while we are still waiting to hear more from Sotomayor in terms of her position on Roe v. Wade and abortion rights, we are assuredly gaining an overall advocate on the Court for women's rights.

Women's rights have been in serious peril throughout the tenure of the John Roberts Court. Just last week in the case, AT&T Corp. v. Hulteen, the Court ruled that women who took maternity leave in the 1970s can be paid less by their employer than men who worked for the same amount of time that they did. Dina Lassow, Senior Counsel to the National Women's Law Center said the following in an email interview about the ruling:

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) adds a provision to Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964 - the basic employment discrimination law - that makes its clear that discrimination on the basis of pregnancy is prohibited.

The problem in Hulteen is that the Court chose to read the PDA narrowly, and not in way that ensures that no women - including those now of retirement age - will be adversely affected by their pregnancies. While Hulteen is a harsh decision, it only affects women who took maternity leave before 1979 - the effective date of the PDA. AT&T changed its policy in 1979, and admits that it cannot discriminate now the way it did against Noreen Hulteen and the other women in her situation. So, the future of maternity leave should not be compromised.

The amicus brief filed by the Center presented the context in which to view AT&T's decision to discriminate against its pregnant employees in the 1960's and 70's, and to continue that discrimination when it set their pension benefits years later.

So, pardon my enthusiasm over this nomination. I'm only a little biased. But there is great reason to celebrate the possibility of another female joining the Supreme Court, particularly Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who has been quoted as saying:

"I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society."

I think you already know, Judge Sotomayor, that the disservice has already been done and now it's time for justice to be served.


For comments and questions email us at politics or email the author. The views expressed in this piece are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of

Supreme Court  Nominee Sonia Sotomayor



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