Sotomayor prepares to make history

WHEN Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in today to the US Supreme Court, she’ll be able to claim two firsts: first Hispanic justice and first high court member to have her oath-taking made available to TV cameras.

Sotomayor, who won a groundbreaking Senate confirmation vote on Thursday over intense conservative opposition, will be sworn in twice by Chief Justice John Roberts.

She will repeat one oath as prescribed by the constitution in a private ceremony at the high court. It will be open only to members of Sotomayor’s family. Then, Roberts will administer a second oath, taken by judges, with the new justice’s family and friends, and reporters present.

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the ceremony apparently will be the first one open to television cameras in the court’s history.

Sotomayor is the first Democratic nominee in 15 years. She becomes the nation’s 111th justice — and just the third woman in the court’s history. She’ll appear next week at the White House with President Barack Obama, who chose her in May to replace retiring

“With this historic vote, the Senate has affirmed that Justice Sotomayor has the intellect, the temperament, the history, the integrity and the independence of mind to ably serve on our nation’s highest court,” Obama said following the 68-31 confirmation vote.

Senate Democrats backed her unanimously, but most Republicans lined up in a show of opposition, both for her and for the president’s standards for a justice.

The 55-year-old daughter of Puerto Rican parents was raised in a South Bronx housing project and educated in the Ivy League before rising to the highest legal echelons, spending the past 17 years as a federal judge.

Souter, while named by a Republican president, has sided with the court’s liberal wing, so Sotomayor is not expected to alter the court’s ideological split in succeeding him.

Still, her nomination sparked an intense fight between Republicans and Democrats, which highlighted profound philosophical disagreements that will shape future fights over the court’s makeup as Obama looks to another likely vacancy — perhaps more than one — while he’s in the White House.

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