Senators positive about Sotomayor

Posted May 26, 2009, at 7:21 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Maine’s two U.S. senators reacted positively but noncommittally Tuesday to President Obama’s nomination of federal appellate judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The dean of Maine’s only law school said he applauded Obama’s choice.

“Indisputably, this is an historic selection, as Sonia Sotomayor is just the third woman to be nominated to the court and the first Hispanic American,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe. “I commend President Obama for nominating a well-qualified woman, as I urged him to do during a one-on-one meeting on a variety of issues in the Oval Office earlier this month.”

Sen. Susan Collins said, “Judge Sotomayor has a compelling life story and a long record of judicial service that will require careful consideration for this most important appointment.”

In prepared statements, both senators said they would carefully evaluate Sotomayor’s record, professional qualifications and judicial philosophy before deciding whether to vote to confirm her.

“As the process moves forward,” Snowe said, “I will apply the same standards of review that I have in the past — that any Supreme Court nominee should bring a balanced approach to cases, possess a strong intellect and suitable judicial temperament and follow a disciplined judicial methodology in reaching decisions.

“Justices on the high court sit for life,” she noted, “so the Senate must exercise this constitutional duty thoughtfully, and give careful and thorough consideration to Judge Sotomayor, as it should to every nominee. I share the view that the proper role of the judiciary is one of interpreting the Constitution and acts of Congress, not legislating from the bench.”

Collins said she was looking “forward to a timely confirmation process that is fair, thorough and conducted with civility. Until the Judiciary Committee completes its hearings and I have the opportunity to have a discussion with Judge Sotomayor, I will withhold judgment on her nomination.”

Snowe and Collins voted to confirm Sotomayor’s appointment to the federal appeals bench in 1998.

Peter Pitegoff, dean of the University of Maine Law School in Portland, called Sotomayor “an accomplished jurist with experience both as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York and as an appellate judge” on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

“She has prior experience both as a prosecutor and in private practice, and she has a robust record of public service,” he said in an e-mail.

Like Collins, he said that Sotomayor “has a compelling life story, having grown up in a housing project in the South Bronx and then earning her way to a [bachelor’s degree] from Princeton and a [law degree] from Yale [University]. In my opinion, Judge Sotomayor will bring a refreshing and measured perspective to the Supreme Court.”

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