President's Pick for High Court Praised

President Barack Obama has picked federal judge Sonia Sotomayor for the united states supreme court. If confirmed for the impending vacancy, she would be the first Hispanic to sit on the highest court in the land. Minorities say the nomination creates an historic opportunity to break new ground. Pat Hernandez has more.

Some Latino leaders here in Houston hail the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. Doctor Laura Murillo is president and CEO of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She calls her a role model of strength, focus and discipline that exemplifies the American spirit.

"Hopefully, there will be a day when this will not be such a big issue.  That in fact, we will have women and minorities in all types of leadership capacities, where we will no longer see this as something as an exception."

Tatcho Mindiola is Director of the Center for Mexican American studies at the University of Houston. He says Sotomayor's experience as a prosecutor and her involvement with women's issues and the law could affect how she views the law.

"We would think that she would bring insight based upon experience, personal experience into some of her considerations. One would hope that that would give her more of an informed point of view on minority issues, at least that would be my hope. So I think that's very very significant and I expect it to play out, personally."

She was first tapped for the federal bench by President George Herbert Walker Bush, and elevated to the appellate court by President Bill Clinton. Attorney and former Houston city councilmember Gracie Saenz says an historic precedent is being set with Sotomayor's nomination.

"Because of the battles, I think of so many people for civil rights, and for inclusion, and for opportunities and especially when you look at this woman, who has an incredible educational foundation, this says a lot. Many battles were fought, and now this is kind of an opportunity that everyone has been waiting for."

Republican leaders in the Senate praised the pick, but pledged a thorough examination of Sotomayor's rulings. Texas Senator John Cornyn is a member of the Judiciary Committee. It will play a part in her confirmation. He says one concern he has is a You-Tube video where Sotomayor says that the appeals court is to make policy.

"I want to ask her whether that is her opinion, because that is diametrically opposed to what the constitution contemplates the role of a judge to be."

He says we can all admire and respect her for rising above adversity as a child to the pinnacle of the American judiciary.

"But I think that's only part of the story. And our job now is to find out the rest of the story when it comes to temperament and judicial philosophy. Obviously, the president can make his pick, but now it's up to the senate to do its duty."

If confirmed, Sotomayor would succeed Justice David Souter who is retiring.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.
 

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...