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Woman in the News: Judge Sonia Sotomayor

Obama's nominee, if confirmed by the Senate, will be the first Hispanic justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, President Obama announced his choice for an opening on the Supreme Court.

BARACK OBAMA: "I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice, Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York."

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: "I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights. I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government."

Sonia Sotomayor is a federal appeals judge. If confirmed, she would be the first Hispanic on the nation's highest court. She would be the second woman among the nine justices, joining Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And she would be only the third woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Justices have lifetime appointments.

The next step is to prepare for Senate confirmation hearings. Senators are expected to question her about a comment she made at a law school in two thousand five.

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: "The court of appeals is where policy is made, and I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don't make law. I know, I know. I'm not promoting it and I'm not advocating it. I'm, you know ... "

Conservative critics say legislators and other elected leaders are the only ones who should make policy. Another comment, involving ethnicity, has also angered conservatives. Some Republicans have argued that Sonia Sotomayor is too liberal for the Supreme Court. They say she could be an "activist judge" who will let personal feelings and political beliefs influence her rulings.

Democrats say her record shows that she is a moderate. In any case, Democrats hold a strong majority in the Senate. So, barring any unexpected problems, her chances for confirmation seem strong.

Republicans say they will demand a serious look at her many legal decisions. But political observers point out that Republicans may worry about offending Hispanics if they try to block her nomination. Hispanics are now the nation's largest ethnic minority, and a fast growing group of voters.

President Obama is urging the Senate to confirm Judge Sotomayor by August. The new court term begins in October. She would replace Justice David Souter who plans to retire in June.

Sonia Sotomayor will be fifty-five in June. She was born in New York City to parents from the American commonwealth of Puerto Rico. She grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx, one of the poorest areas of the city.

She earned highest honors in history from Princeton University. Then she attended law school at Yale University. She became a federal judge in New York in nineteen ninety-two. The Senate approved her nomination by a Republican president, the first George Bush. Then, six years later, the Senate confirmed her appointment to the appeals court by a Democrat, President Bill Clinton.

Her newest appointment is not expected to change the political balance of the Supreme Court. Five of the nine current justices -- a majority -- are more conservative than liberal. Judge Sotomayor would replace a justice who has generally voted with the liberal minority.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.