As Supreme Court experts rarely fail to point out, Sonia Sotomayor's accession to the Supreme Court this week will do little to shift future outcomes in hot button cases, because she will likely vote as did her predecessor, center-left Justice David Souter. Nevertheless, the confirmation ritual she has just completed could ultimately turn out to be a substantial plus for progressives. Her performance, and even more, statements by senators, especially Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, could reposition progressives on and off the Court with a new vision that spotlights the Roberts Court's appetite for judicial supremacy and reactionary outcomes -- "unabashed law-making," as Justice John Paul Stevens recently put it.
Supreme Court Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, and Samuel Alito attend the State of the Union address in 2006. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
On March 17, President Barack Obama announced his first judicial nominee: David Hamilton, a 15-year veteran Indiana federal trial judge with the declared support of both Indiana senators, Republican Richard Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh. With his selection of Hamilton for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Obama fulfilled a promise he reportedly made to Republicans. The previous month, ranking Judiciary Committee Republican Arlen Specter told Roll Call that the president had assured him that he would send up nominees "who can get Republican support" and "be acceptable to all sides."