July 2009

Spotlight On…   The Supreme Court of the United States (Sonia Sotomayor)

Sonia Sotomayor., from www.whitehouse.govSonia Sotomayor

On May 26, President Obama nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

About Judge Sotomayor

Sotomayor currently serves as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (which has jurisdiction over cases in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont). Before joining the appeals court, she served as a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York. If confirmed, Judge Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Biographical information and an overview of Judge Sotomayor’s career is available on the White House website.

Background Info

Special websites from the New York Times, CNN, and National Public Radio offer news and analysis, highlights of Sotomayor's life and career, interactive graphics, and videos.

The nomination of Judge Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is also of considerable interest in other countries. For an international perspective, check out the BBC website.

Of course, there are a number of blogs devoted entirely to the nomination process. Two noteworthy ones are the SCOTUS Blog and the Opening Arguments (sponsored by the Washington Post).

The National Archives recently released records related to Judge Sotomayor. These records have all been posted on the Archives website.

All judicial nominees are asked to complete a bipartisan questionnaire by the Sentate Judiciary Committee. The questionnaire and Sotomayor's responses are available on the Committee's website.

Researching the legal background of a Supreme Court nominee is an important step in determining the individual’s qualifications. On the Second Circuit’s website, you can review cases over which Judge Sotomayor has presided.

The Hearings

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin conducting confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sotomayor on July 13 at 10:00 a.m. The hearings will be carried live on C-SPAN.

Court Watchers and Watchdogs

Across the political spectrum, partisan and nonpartisan organizations closely follow the Supreme Court and its decisions. Here are a few of the more prominent monitors.

The Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary of the American Bar Association examines the qualifications of all nominees to the Federal Courts and issues a rating for each candidate of “well-qualified,” “qualified,” or “not qualified.”

Judicial Watch aims for full disclosure of judges’ finances and potential conflicts of interest. You’ll find Judge Sotomayor’s financial disclosure reports on their site.

The Alliance for Justice, (a "national association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's, and consumer advocacy organizations") issued an endorsement and detailed analysis of her record.

Meanwhile, Judicial Watch (“a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation”) has mounted an opposition campaign to Sotomayor's confirmation.

More Information about the Supreme Court

GPO Access (from the Government Printing Office) offers the full-text of all Supreme Court justice nomination hearings, dating back to 1971.

You can listen to audio files of Supreme Court oral arguments at Oyez, Oyez. The arguments cover court cases dating back to 1995. Selected audio files of court cases held between 1955 and 1995 are also available.

On the Supreme Court’s website, you’ll find information about the history, functions, and rules of the federal judiciary, as well as biographies of the current Justices, opinions on all cases that have gone before the Court, oral arguments, and the Court’s docket.

The Supreme Court Historical Society is a non-profit organization “dedicated to the collection and preservation of the history of the Supreme Court of the United States.” It’s an excellent site for students studying the Court and its decisions.

Landmark Supreme Court Cases offers resources and activities to teachers who are exploring key issues of the cases in the classroom.

Resources in the Library’s Collection

The Supreme Court’s published case opinions are some of the most influential documents in American history. The Information and Reference Department has the complete opinions of the Court, published in the series United States Reports.

Decisions of the United States Supreme Court. This is an annual summary of the Court’s term, plus summaries of leading decisions.

Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States. This brings you the information behind the decisions. For every leading case the court decides, this set includes transcripts of oral arguments along with briefs filed by both parties. A real goldmine.

The Supreme Court Review. Prepared by the University of Chicago Law School, this annual review analyzes key Supreme Court decisions.

Supreme Intrigue

Intrigue in the halls of the nation’s highest court is a popular theme in suspense fiction. Here are some favorites.