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Letter from President Barack Obama

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Yesterday, Judge Sonia Sotomayor made her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee and moved another step closer to taking a seat on the United States Supreme Court.

As President, there are few responsibilities more serious or consequential than the naming of a Supreme Court Justice, so I want to take this opportunity to tell you about the qualifications and character that informed my decision to nominate Judge Sotomayor.

Judge Sotomayor’s brilliant legal mind is complemented by the practical lessons that can only be learned by applying the law to real world situations.

In the coming days, the hearings will cover an incredible body of work from a judge who has more experience on the federal bench than any incoming Supreme Court Justice in the last 100 years. Judge Sotomayor’s professional background spans our judicial system —from her time as a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator, to her work as a federal trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and an appellate judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

And then there is Judge Sotomayor’s incredible personal story. She grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx — her parents coming to New York from Puerto Rico during the Second World War. At the age of nine, she lost her father, and her mother worked six days a week just to put food on the table. It takes a certain resilience and determination to rise up out of such circumstances, focus, work hard and achieve the American dream.

In Judge Sotomayor, our nation will have a Justice who will never forget her humble beginnings, will always apply the rule of law, and will be a protector of the Constitution that made her American dream and the dreams of millions of others possible. As she said so clearly yesterday, Judge Sotomayor’s decisions on the bench “have been made not to serve the interests of any one litigant, but always to serve the larger interest of impartial justice.”

It’s important for these hearings to be about Judge Sotomayor’s own record and her capacity for the job — not any political back and forth that some in Washington may use to distract you. What members of the Judiciary Committee, and the American people, will see today is a sharp and fearless jurist who does not let powerful interests bully her into breaking from the rule of law.

Thank you,

Barack Obama

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