Skip to comments.Pressure Is on Obama to Name First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice
Posted on 11/28/2008 11:11:14 AM PST by stan_sipple
For eight years of Clinton, then eight years of Bush, Carlos Ortiz has waited. With the election of Obama, Ortiz hopes -- trusts -- he will have to wait no more to see his dream realized: the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
"What more unifying appointment could there be than a Hispanic justice?" asks Ortiz, who began his campaign in 1987 as a board member, then as president, of the Hispanic National Bar Association and later as chair of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. "It's not just the right thing to do, but we deserve it. I can't imagine that the next appointment will go to someone other than a Hispanic."
Encouraged by President-elect Barack Obama's talk of inclusiveness, and emboldened by the importance of the Hispanic vote to Obama's victory -- two-thirds of Hispanics voted for him -- Hispanic groups are cautiously hopeful that finally the time has come for a justice with a Latino background.
Almost every list of possible Obama nominees to the high court includes Hispanics -- most notably Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But others who are mentioned include: Judge Kim Wardlaw of the 9th Circuit (her mother was Mexican), U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo of Chicago, California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno, and even two Democratic U.S. senators -- Ken Salazar of Colorado and Robert Menendez of New Jersey.
But Ortiz and other Hispanic legal leaders are reluctant to name names themselves, not wanting to spoil their chances and also, seemingly, bracing themselves for disappointment yet again. They know that unpredictable variables of timing and politics can turn a sure-bet candidate -- or ethnic group -- into an also-ran overnight.
President Bill Clinton was lobbied hard to name a Hispanic, and President George W. Bush's early list of possible candidates was heavy with Hispanic names, many from his Texas days. Ortiz met with then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to press the issue, but Gonzales' assurances turned out to be "lip service," as Ortiz puts it now. When the vacancies finally arose, other factors, both political and ideological, took precedence over naming a Hispanic to the high court.
"It was a lack of will, a lack of commitment," says current HNBA president Ramona Romero. "It was not because of the absence of qualified candidates."
This time, she says, "there is an enormous sense of urgency" behind making sure the opportunity is not lost during a Barack Obama presidency. She is assembling a committee, including Ortiz, to contact and vet possible candidates for a Supreme Court nomination, so that "we will be ready."
On Nov. 14, Romero wrote a letter to Obama urging him to "make history yet again" by nominating a Hispanic justice, thereby erasing the "unfortunate message" conveyed by a Supreme Court with no Hispanic members. "The presence of a Latino or Latina at the conference table could add a needed 'special voice' to the Supreme Court's deliberations and decisions -- a voice that can speak about the law as it affects U.S. Hispanics with the authority that only firsthand knowledge can provide."
John Trasvina, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also has high hopes. "We will have a president who understands the Latino community," says Trasviña, who notes that in 1995 Obama, then an associate in Judson Miner's Chicago law firm, worked with MALDEF on a voter registration case.
Add to that the growing number and stature of Hispanic lawyers, says Trasvina, and it will be hard to explain not appointing a Latino justice at some point. "We've got a deeper talent pool than ever before," he says.
But these leaders also point out that their goals reach beyond naming a justice with a Hispanic name or heritage. "Being Hispanic doesn't always mean that you are grounded in the culture," says Romero. Evidence of some connection with the Hispanic community, and an understanding of its culture and concerns, will be important in assessing candidates, says Romero.
Trasvina agrees. "Beyond the symbolism, there are cases where it really matters" to have a Latino perspective. For that reason he is hoping Obama will name Hispanics to appeals courts as well as the Supreme Court. Appeals courts decide a lot of immigration cases, and they also serve as training grounds for the high court. Justices David Souter and Clarence Thomas, he notes, were named to the high court after brief stints on courts of appeals.
MALDEF also hopes Obama will embrace a broader Hispanic agenda that includes jobs, health care, and civil rights. "We have evolved from focusing just on a Latino justice to focusing on justice for Latinos." Trasvina adds, "Clearly we can have both."
how many white slots will Obama allow?
Why don’t we just let LA Raza pick the next supreme? Jeesh!
what about the Aboriginal agenda?
Totalizing and universalizing is not a basis for standing. A legal perspective might matter.
“First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice”??????
I didn’t know the SC was bi-lingual!!!
I’m sure Miguel Estrada is still available.
Huh? How do you, as a group, DESERVE it? We need the best man to interpret the Constitution, not a token representative.
yup, the Rats and GOP Quislings strung him along forever in limbo. A practicing attorney cant wait forever to take office and also leave his clients hanging.
Good lord. This is pathetic. Get an hispanic judge in there no matter what. Even if he’s pickin weeds the day before, just be sure he/she is hispanic.
Ridiculous. The SCOTUS is no place for affirmative action it IS the place for the best qualified constitutional Judge.
To late by a long shot.
The beauty of being a liberal is that history always begins this morning.
What ever happened to nominating the MOST QUALIFIED? As long as the race baiters continue to demand that race be an element of appointment decisions, we will never get past being a racist society. However, the true racists among us are those calling for race as a criterion, not the rest of us.
Lock and load...we’re in for a long four years...
Didn’t Bush want to nominate a hispanic judge but Teddy Kennedy get in a huff about that. In fact, there was an email that was taken off a server and given to the press.
They only cared about that an email was illegaly given to the press.
“Judge Kim Wardlaw of the 9th Circuit”
Great! How many opinions was she involved in, that have been reversed?
At the front of this line....ought to be a native American Indian Supreme Court judge. Then the Latino guy. Then the Asian lesbian. Then the Haitian guy. Then the Russian gal. Then the gay Syrian guy. Then the South Korean guy. Then the Catholic Priest guy. Then the ex-Yankee Manager. Then the bipolar guy from Hawaii. Then finally Joe the Plumber.
Are there any midgets on the Supreme Court? Have there ever been?
This is very worrying.
Why does everyone hate midgets?
Why not John McNut? He’s a Panamanian citizen...He just never submitted his official papers to get his cédula and passport.
preferably an illegal alien hispanic
Now there's a fine reason to nominate someone--he belongs to a certain ethnic voting bloc. What else is the Supreme Court good for if not to pay off political stooges.
Ann is so insightful. Miquel is too....but he’s apparently not the “right kind” of Hispanic for the SCOTUS.
Oh, I know, can he appoint Osvaldo Aldrete Dávila. [/cynic]
Sure...what could be more unifying then dividing us by race.
Not dividing us by: income, sexual orientation, political preferences, religious preferences, legal citizenship status, moral beliefs... [/sarc]
There it is again. They, the hispanics (whatever that is supposed to be) are "owed."
What will the MSM say when Obama fires all the Bush appointed attorneys? Will they try to get teh attorney general fired?
>”I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” -MLKJ
Yes... but who cares what a bunch of old influential [read: white] men said? As Mrs. Obama said, now is the first time that she is proud of her country.[/sarc]
To fill it out have a 'gay-transgendered seat', a 'native-american seat'. To be fair a 'straight-white-male.
Three more, bring back the 'jewish seat', a 'muslim seat' and finally the 'atheist seat'.
How about that drug dealer that Border Patrol agents Compean and Ramos shot in the ass.
He's got it all.
lets have zero actually take the thrown first...he’s not our president yet.....geesh......
Well we have the non-straight white male covered
Oh, puleez, could we just be done with the quota stuff? You’d think it was 1862 or something....
And is anyone else sick to death of the huge number of black actors on tv these days? You’d think this country was 80% black. Blacks in ads, blacks in sit-coms, blacks in this and blacks in that — I feel propagandized in my own living room.
Could we just get to the point where we honor MLK’s words — “When people are judged by their character and not by their skin color.”
ask our recently retired RINO SCOTUS justice O’Connor about that.
Does Ginsberg count?
I heard of a Hispanic in California who only earns $14,000 a year and bought a home for $720,000; he sure could use a better job; he doesn’t speak English, is that a problem?
Hispanics decided the election, going 2:1 for Hussein over Juan McAmnesty. Now comes payoff time.
I don’t give a darn if he names a Purple People Eater to the Court, just as long as he is a strict constructionist.
But we know that won’t happen. The first prerequisite will be justices eager to destroy the Constitution and remake the country in Obama’s image.
What a warped world we live in - the “pressure” should be on Mr. Obama to appoint a qualified Supreme Court judge, regardless of race. But I suppose I live in some other century.
Scalia Thomas Alito and Roberts wont live forever say good bye to the rule of law by then
Perhaps I missed something in the news - but WHY is there pressure for Obama to nominate ANYONE to the Supreme Court? Did I miss the retirement announcement or obituary about a Justice?
Perhaps he should just go ahead and make the nomination now, get them confirmed, then have them in “hot standby” so just in case someone leaves the bench he has a ready replacement.
Or, better yet why doesn’t he just mandate an extra justice now so there will be ties? He is, after all, the messiah having come to enlighten us all.
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