* Court's ideological makeup expected to remain same
* Sotomayor noted for ruling in baseball strike
* Fight likely as Republicans oppose Obama pick
* Obama wants job filled by October
(Adds record on business rulings)
By David Alexander
WASHINGTON, May 26 President Barack Obama
nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court on
Tuesday, selecting a woman who would be the court's first
Hispanic justice and a liberal who is unlikely to change its
Sotomayor, 54, is a U.S. appeals court judge who grew up in
a public housing project in New York City and is the daughter
of Puerto Rican parents. She would replace retiring Justice
David Souter, who was part of the court's liberal wing.
The nine justices, whose docket includes controversial
cases on abortion and the death penalty, have been closely
divided on many contentious issues, often splitting between a
five-member conservative majority and four dissenting liberal
Conservatives quickly moved to criticize Obama's choice,
but political analysts said that -- barring unexpected scandal
-- it was unlikely the nomination would be derailed. Supreme
Court justices serve for life but their nomination must be
approved by the U.S. Senate, where Obama's fellow Democrats
have a solid majority.
Obama, who had spoken of "empathy" as a criteria for the
job, called Sotomayor an inspiring woman as he announced his
pick at the White House. He recounted Sotomayor's humble
beginnings, saying she had "lived out the American dream."
Sotomayor is most widely known for her decision as a trial
judge in 1995 to bar Major League Baseball owners from using
replacement players, ending a strike in one of America's
"Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball," Obama
While liberal groups welcomed the nomination, conservatives
and business groups reacted cautiously. The Chamber of Commerce
said it was important to focus on how her views would affect
economic growth and businesses, and Senate Republican Leader
Mitch McConnell promised to examine her record thoroughly.
Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, said he was committed to ensuring Sotomayor was
seated before the Court's term begins in October.
REAL WORLD CONSEQUENCES
As a judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New
York, Sotomayor has often sided with plaintiffs in cases
involving race, sex, age and disability discrimination and has
ruled against businesses in cases on environmental law and
securities litigation. Four of her business rulings were later
reversed by the Supreme Court.
"I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my
decisions on individuals, business and government," Sotomayor
told the White House gathering.
Sotomayor has a long record of rulings in business cases,
but experts say her record does not appear to be either
particularly liberal or conservative -- but rather a patchwork
of decisions based more on the merits and facts of the cases
than an ideological approach to the law.
Sotomayor would be the third woman to serve on the court
and would join the only other woman currently on the panel,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Hoping to show a consultative approach, Obama spoke with
every member of the Senate Judiciary committee -- both
Democrats and Republicans -- before he made a decision.
Sotomayor was part of a short list of candidates that also
included U.S. appeals court judge Diane Wood, Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano and Solicitor General Elena Kagan,
U.S. officials said.
Obama interviewed each of the four for an hour at the White
House last week. Sotomayor spent a total of seven hours last
Thursday at the White House, including the one-hour interview
with Obama, which was the first time the two had met.
Obama urged lawmakers to swiftly confirm Sotomayor's
nomination. But analysts noted that Obama, a former senator,
voted against Republican President George W. Bush's two Supreme
Court nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and said his
choice was certain to provoke a fight.
"He selected somebody who virtually guarantees a
confirmation fight. This would be the person the Republicans
likely would have selected for the political potential," said
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley.
He cited her controversial 2005 remark that the appellate
court was a place where "policy is made," and her appeals
court's ruling in a case involving firefighters in New Haven,
Connecticut -- which hinged on arguments over
affirmative action policies designed to favor minorities and
address past discrimination.
While some Republicans indicated they planned a fight over
the nomination, there was little chance they could upset it.
Democrats control 59 seats in the 100-member Senate, and
Republicans are unlikely to be able to get near-unanimous party
support to muster 40 votes needed to block Sotomayor's
nomination with procedural tactics.
Sotomayor has been a Court of Appeals judge in New York
since 1998. Before that she served as a U.S. District Court
judge for the Southern District of New York.
Her mother, a nurse, had to support her and her brother
after Sotomayor's father died when she was 9. Sotomayor, who is
divorced, graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law
School and began her law career in 1979 as an assistant
district attorney in Manhattan.
(Additional reporting by James Vicini, Ross Colvin, Andy
Sullivan, and Caren Bohan; Editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia