Senate confirms Sotomayor to U.S. Supreme Court

Chris Rizo Aug. 6, 2009, 4:00pm

Sonia Sotomayor

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, making her the nation's first Hispanic justice.

Sotomayor, a judge on the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, was confirmed by a 68-31 vote after about 18 hours of debate.

Nine Republicans joined all but one Democrat -- Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts who is battling cancer and was absent from the vote -- to support President Barack Obama's pick to succeed Associate Justice David Souter, who left the high court after its current term ended in June.

The Republicans who voted for Sotomayor, 55, are: Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Christopher Bond of Missouri, Susan Collins of Maine, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Mel Martinez of Florida, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and George Voinovich of Ohio.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the confirmation is historic.

"With this confirmation we will be making progress," he said on the Senate floor. "Years from now, we will remember this time when we crossed paths with a quintessentially American journey of Sonia Sotomayor."

Sotomayor's swearing-in is scheduled for Saturday at the U.S. Supreme Court building. She will take her seat on the high court in September, when the justices convene for a special hearing on a campaign finance case.

Sotomayor was nominated in 1991 by Republican President George H. W. Bush to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1997, Democratic President Bill Clinton nominated her to the appeals court post she now holds.

In her confirmation hearings, Republicans took aim at Sotomayor's record on race bias. They questioned, among other things, the appellate court panel she was on that threw out a discrimination lawsuit brought by white firefighters in New Haven, Conn.

The panel's decision was overturned this year by the Supreme Court, which found that the group of firefighters were unfairly denied promotions because of their race.

The firefighters said their rights to equal protection as well as their protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were trampled when the city threw out their test scores on a promotional exam because no African-American candidate received a high enough score to also be considered for the same promotion.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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