Is Obama's Supreme Court Pick In the Bronx?

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By Kim StolzMTV News Correspondent/Writer

Despite his high approval ratings, President Obama still has a lot to prove as far as appointments go, given the scandals that have surrounding many of his cabinet appointments. And this is on top of the loose-cannon known as Vice President Biden. The success and smoothness of President Obama's next few significant decisions are vital. Somewhat serendipitously, the most important decision for him yet, both politically and personally, has just landed on his desk.

Just a week ago, and ironically on Obama's 100thday in office, Supreme Court Justice David Souter, sent a letter informing the president of his decision to resign from the Court at the end of this term.



Obama must now search his Rolodex -- and his soul -- to appoint a new Supreme Court justice that will fulfill his promises of "hope" and "change," while not attracting too much ire and scrutiny from the right. Let's at least hope he chooses someone who has paid his or her taxes.

President Obama is a man of large gestures, but also a man who clings tightly to pragmatism. He is a grass roots organizer yet also a president who has quickly learned that he cannot be a radical activist if he even cares to dream of seeing a second term. With Ruth Bader Ginsberg the lone female on the Supreme Court, and with women now making up almost half of those in legal professions in this country, there has been mounting pressure for him to choose a woman. And, as we look back to his campaign, Obama owes much of his electoral success to the Latino community, none of whom have yet had a seat on the Supreme Court. Thus, a likely Obama nominee would be a Latin woman, who has appealed to both Democrats and Republicans, and while having experience in community building and activism (fulfilling Obama's "empathy" qualification), but will not be seen as an "activist" judge.

The person he is looking for may be Bronx-born Second Circuit judge Sonia Sotomayor. A graduate of Princeton and Yale, Sotomayor was first nominated by a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court.

While she was nominated by Bush 41, her record on the bench as actually been more left-leaning, though she is not a radical by any means. She has experience in community building, having helped to provide mortgage insurance coverage to low-income housing and AIDS hospices in New York City, but is not an "activist" judge and, in fact, has the reputation of being rather moderate in court. Another small and unknown but interesting qualification of Sotomayor's is that, as partner of the firm Pavia Harcourt, she specialized in intellectual property litigation. With rising concerns about illegal downloading and the increasingly ungoverned World Wide Web, perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea to have an intellectual property specialist on the highest court.

There are other potential and likely nominees whose names have been thrown in the mix, such as Jennifer Granholm, Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Seth Waxman. They've all been rumored to be on Obama's short list, but none fulfills the criteria above so closely as Sonia Sotomayor. With the added pressure that Obama will feel from Latino and female interest groups, Sotomayor will feel not only like a qualified choice, but politically, a safe one. Of course, though, this all is contingent on an absence of skeletons in the Sotomayor closet. What the Obama administration cannot weather, at this point, is his Supreme Court nominee stepping down. His team better make sure to do all of their homework this time.