From the corridors of Albany to the streets of the Bronx, New Yorkers greeted the nomination of a self-described "Newyorican" to the Supreme Court with unabashed pride.
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, one of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's early mentors and a legend in his own right, called the nomination "an outstanding choice." As an assistant district attorney, Sotomayor tried a number of criminal cases under Morgenthau.
“Throughout her career Judge Sotomayor has shown that she possesses the wisdom, intelligence, collegiality, and good character needed to fill the position for which she has been nominated," Morgenthau said in a statement. "It is a credit to the President, and indeed to the United States, that an individual born in humble circumstances in the South Bronx can, simply by dint of talent and hard work, rise to be recognized as the right candidate for a seat on the highest court in the land.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also called Obama's pick "outstanding," saying he told Obama as much when the two met in the oval office this month.
"She has been an incredibly good federal judge, and having risen from humble beginnings in the Bronx, she brings a perspective that will serve the court – and our nation – very well," Bloomberg said. "Her story is a perfect example of the kind of opportunity that is available in this city – and this country – to those who devote themselves to their dreams."
Indeed. If confirmed, the Bronx-born judge would be the first Hispanic and the third woman to sit on the highest court in the land. Sotomayor's path to the pinnacle of the legal profession began in the 1960s at a Bronx housing project just a couple blocks from Yankee Stadium, where she and her family dealt with one struggle after another.
A woman who lives at the 3,500-resident Bronxdale Houses where Sotomayor grew up says that any time someone leaves the projects and becomes successful, it's cause for celebration. Jennifer Sayers, 46, says it's good to know that "somebody from the projects can definitely make it, because it's not easy."
Sotomayor suffered juvenile diabetes that forced her to start insulin injections at age 8. Her father died the next year, leaving her to be raised by her mother -- a nurse at a methadone clinic who always kept a pot of rice and beans on the stove. The parents immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico.
State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo praised her journey as a "true New York success story."
"Just as Justices Marshall and O'Connor broke down centuries-old barriers, Judge Sotomayor is a trailblazer whose accomplishments will serve as an inspiration for women, minorities, and all New Yorkers," said Cuomo. "I applaud President Obama for his exceptional choice and congratulate Judge Sotomayor."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, was quick to issue a warning today that conservatives who oppose the nomination will do so at "their own peril." Schumer, who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, took a jab at the right in expressing his support of Sotomayor's nomination.
“This is an historic choice, and much more," he said. "Judge Sotomayor meets three very important standards in filling this Supreme Court vacancy -- excellence, moderation and diversity. First, she is a top-of-the-class legal mind who achieved the very highest honors at the nation’s foremost academic institutions. Second, she is a moderate who was selected for the District Court by the first President Bush and was confirmed with Republican votes. Unlike the last President Bush, who solely sought nominees from the extreme right for the High Court, President Obama has not reached to the far left end of the spectrum to fill this vacancy."
State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith also praised Sotomayor today.
"All New Yorkers can be proud at the prospect of the Bronx-born leader as a member of the nation’s highest Court," he said. "I am confident she will earn broad bi-partisan support based on her record, her thoughtful approach to jurisprudence, and her strong belief in justice for all and the rule of law."
Cesar Perales, the president of the advocacy group Latino Justice/PRLDEF, said "this is a historic day in our nation." Sotomayor was a board member of the group for more than 10 years. Perales added the organization was overcome with emotion today, adding that Sotomayor is "one of our jewels."
National Institute for Latino Policy President Angelo Falcon says that it is "a very proud moment'' for Hispanics.