By Linda Lowenhttp://womensissues.about.com
When Justice David Souter announced his retirement from the Supreme Court in May 2009, the resulting vacancy on the bench enabled President Barack Obama to make a historic choice. His nomination of federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court demonstrated his ongoing pledge to bring about change. Seventy-two days later, the Senate cast a groundbreaking vote to appoint the Court's third female and first Hispanic justice.
Even before it was known that the president would nominate a woman, Sotomayor was an early front-runner and the target of personal attacks. Once she became the nominee her previous rulings, public statements, and law school lectures all came under scrutiny. Both supporters and opponents sought clues indicating how she might vote on such issues as abortion and affirmative action.
Although most political observers knew she had enough votes for confirmation, the racism and sexism that surfaced, along with partisan pressure to vote against her, shadowed the entire process.