May 01, 2009

Schumer, Gillibrand Make Direct Appeal to President Obama Recommending He Nominate the First Ever Latino to the Supreme Court Should a Vacancy Occur During His Term

Senators Recommend Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Current Interior Secretary Ken Salazar As Possible Candidates

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand sent a personal letter to President Barack Obama asking him to appoint a Latino to fill the next vacancy on the United States Supreme Court should a seat open up during President Obama's administration. Schumer and Gillibrand specifically recommended Judge Sonia Sotomayor, currently sitting on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Interior Secretary and former Colorado Senator and State Attorney General Ken Salazar. Schumer and Gillibrand said both would make outstanding justices and help ensure that the Supreme Court reflect the full diversity of the nation. This would be the first ever nomination of a Latino to the Supreme Court.

"It's long overdue that a Latino sit on the United States Supreme Court. Sonia Sotomayor and Ken Salazar are two candidates who would make outstanding justices. They have top-notch legal minds, years of experience, moderate approaches to the law, and would make history by being the first Latino on the court," Senator Schumer said.

"We are fortunate in New York State to have jurists of the caliber and intellect that Judge Sotomayor has exhibited during a lifelong career of service to the bench.  As an accomplished jurists, as a woman, and as a Latina she would bring to the United States Supreme Court a much needed voice.  We must be committed to diversity on our nation's highest bench.  These candidates will restore the balance that we so desperately need on the Court," Senator Gillibrand said.

The text of the Senators' letter to President Obama is included below:

Dear Mr. President,

We write to bring your attention to the shortage of representation of Latinos in the Federal Judiciary and strongly urge you to consider the Latino legal community when deciding your first appointment to the United States Supreme Court should a vacancy occur during your presidency.

We are firm believers that legal excellence, moderation, and diversity should be taken into account when nominating judges to ensure that the federal bench is truly representative of our society.  Latinos are a large and growing segment of our society that have gone grossly underrepresented in our legal system.  Indeed, while Latinos comprise around 15 percent of the population, only about 7 percent of federal judges are Latino.  Moreover, not a single Latino has served on the United States Supreme Court in the history of our country. 

There are, of course, many excellent and qualified Latino candidates, but we commend to your attention two in particular who we believe would be exceptional Supreme Court Justices should a vacancy arise:  Judge Sonia Sotomayor and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.  Both of these individuals are legally excellent, ideologically moderate, and would add diversity to the Court.

From within the judicial sphere, Judge Sotomayor would make an excellent selection.  She has had a long and distinguished career as a public servant, and since 1998, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, one of the most important Circuits in the nation.  Nominated by former President Clinton, Judge Sotomayor received broad bipartisan support in the Senate.  Before her appointment to the Second Circuit, she served as a District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York - a position for which she was nominated by former President George H.W. Bush and confirmed unanimously by the Senate.  Even prior to her tenure on the federal bench, Judge Sotomayor demonstrated her commitment to public service and the rule of law by working as an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office.

From outside of the judicial sphere, Interior Secretary Salazar would make a highly-regarded choice.  Like Judge Sotomayor, Secretary Salazar also boasts an impressive resume demonstrating excellence as a lawyer and a distinguished career as a public servant.  As you know, his nomination for Secretary of the Interior received unanimous support in the Senate - a body in which he previously proudly served for a number of years.  While Secretary Salazar has never served on the federal bench, we believe his years in the U.S. Senate and his many years serving as the thirty-sixth Attorney General of Colorado have not only proven his commitment to public service and the rule of law, but also endowed him with the necessary breadth and depth of understanding regarding the many issues before our courts.

We look forward to working with you on this issue, and thank you for your consideration.


Senator Charles E. Schumer

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand