Yesterday, United States President Barack Obama nominated New York judge, Sonia Sotomayor as candidate to occupy a place on the Supreme Court, replacing Justice David Souter, who held the position since 1990. Thus, if confirmed by the Senate – uncomplicated, in principle, given the mostly Democratic composition of that legislative body – Sotomayor could become the first judge of Hispanic origin to take a seat on the highest judicial body of our neighboring country.
In the first place, it should be noted that the nomination of the judge with Puerto Rican ancestry communicates remarkable sensitivity on the part of the U.S. leader toward changes experienced in recent decades by the society of that nation – in particular, acknowledgment of the importance and the political, social, and cultural weight of the U.S. Hispanic community. According to Census Bureau data, that community numbers approximately 47 million people; thus, one of every six citizens is of Latin American origin.
At the same time, with the appointment of Sotomayor – identified with the liberal wing of U.S. justice, which highlights failures in challenges to racial discrimination and promotes the welfare of the underprivileged – Obama responds to the nominations of Judges Samuel Alito and John Roberts, made by George W. Bush during his administration, which were, at the time, viewed by various analysts as concessions to the more conservative sectors of the political class and society of our neighboring country.
Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the New York judge will arrive, if approved by the Senate, to the central body of a judicial system that has been undermined both politically and morally, as a result of the chain of outrages and judicial aberrations, consummated and legalized during the disastrous era when George W. Bush was in the White House. It should be noted, for example, that just this past week, the Supreme Court rejected, by a majority, the initiation of a lawsuit against two senior officials of the past administration (current director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft), accused of designing a network of detention and abuse of suspected terrorist in the years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
This decision signified, in national and international public opinion, additional damage to the image of the highest body of U.S. justice, portrayed by most of its members as guarantors of impunity for alleged perpetrators of crimes against humanity. In addition, it threatened the credibility of Obama's political project, whose motto, since before his January arrival to the Oval Office, has been change and the moral renewal of Washington politics, internally and externally.
With these considerations in mind, the designation of Judge Sotomayor as member of the U.S. Supreme Court of Justice constitutes – because of her racial origins and, above all, her professional standing – a plausible and encouraging fact. It is hoped that the judge will engage with the sensitivity and spirit of justice and legality required by the post, and that she will contribute to the reversal of the well-deserved, abysmal international image of her country’s justice system.