Supreme Court Update Memorandum Available


On Tuesday, May 26, 2009, President Obama announced the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. If confirmed, Judge Sotomayor, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, will replace Justice David Hackett Souter who announced his retirement from the Court on April 30, 2009. Currently, Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee are scheduled to begin on July 13, 2009, with President Obama pushing to complete the hearings with a vote by the full Senate before the August recess.

Judge Sotomayor graduated from Princeton University and then attended Yale Law School, where she served as an editor to the Yale Law Journal, writing a student note entitled Statehood and the Equal Footing Doctrine: The Case for Puerto Rican Seabed Rights. Following her graduation from law school in 1979, she went to work as an assistant district attorney for the New York County District Attorney’s Office, where she earned a reputation as “a fearless and effective prosecutor.” In 1984, she entered private practice in a small civil litigation firm, representing corporations on matters related to international commercial law. In 1991, Judge Sotomayor was nominated by President George H.W. Bush for a federal judgeship in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1997, President William J. Clinton nominated her to served as an appellate judge – and the first Latina – on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Generally, Judge Sotomayor is considered a centrist and pragmatist, in the mold of a Justice Souter. An extensive review of her record reveals that she has had very little exposure to, or experience in federal Indian law. Our research of her years as an Assistant District Attorney, as an attorney in private practice, or as a federal district court judge has not uncovered any cases dealing with issues pertaining to Indians or Indian tribes. During her tenure on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor participated in only a handful of cases involving Indians, Indian tribes, or issues involving some aspect of federal Indian law. NARF has prepared a memo which provides more background information and a summary of her Indian law cases, a copy of which can be obtained by contacting Richard Guest at

You can see the full text of the most current Supreme Court Update Memorandum by clicking HERE.

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