White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement, saying Obama phoned the 55-year-old 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge from the Oval Office "to wish her good luck as she completed preparations for her confirmation hearing" that is to begin Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"He complimented the judge for making courtesy calls to 89 senators in which she discussed her adherence to the rule of law throughout her 17 years on the federal bench," Gibbs's said. "The president expressed his confidence that Judge Sotomayor would be confirmed to serve as a justice on the Supreme Court for many years to come."
If confirmed, the Princeton- and Yale-educated jurist would become the first Hispanic, third female and 111th justice overall to serve on the nation's highest court. Sotomayor, a New York native of Puerto Rican descent, would replace David Souter, who is retiring.
Republicans senators will likely question Sotomayor's judicial impartiality, political analysts said.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has focused on Obama's remark about wanting justices with "empathy," the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday.
"Empathy is great, perhaps, if you're the beneficiary of it," Sessions said in a speech. "But it is not good if you are the litigant on the wrong side of the case, if you don't catch the judge's fancy, or if you fail to appeal to a shared personal experience."
However, with only seven Republicans on the 19-member panel, Sotomayor's nomination is likely to be approved.
Republicans, especially those from states with large Hispanic populations, are likely to tread carefully, the Tribune reported.
After Obama announced his choice, remarks Sotomayor made at a judicial conference in 2001 suggesting a "wise Latina woman" might make better decisions than a white male judge have become part of the conversation. She now says she misspoke.
Republicans are also expected to call a New Haven firefighter as a witness. Sotomayor was part of the appellate panel that upheld the Connecticut city's decision to scrap a promotion test when no blacks passed, a ruling recently reversed by the Supreme Court.
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