[JURIST] The American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary [official website] on Tuesday gave US Supreme Court [official website] nominee Sonia Sotomayor [WH profile] a unanimous "well-qualified" rating [letter, PDF]. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official websites], said [press release] that the positive assessment should aid Sotomayor in her confirmation hearings [JURIST report], scheduled to begin next week:
The American Bar Association's unanimous, well-qualified rating of Judge Sotomayor is further evidence of the outstanding experience she will bring to the Supreme Court. The ABAs rating - an evaluation of integrity, professional competence, and judicial temperament - should eliminate the doubts of naysayers who have questioned Judge Sotomayors disposition on the bench.
The ABA committee gave Sotomayor a majority "qualified" rating when she was nominated to be a district judge, and a majority "well qualified [ratings, PDF] rating when she was nominated to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website]. Although confirmation in the committee is expected, the ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions (R-AL) [official website] argued that Sotomayor's involvement with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund [advocacy website], which he says "took extreme positions on legal issues ranging from the death penalty to abortion to racial quotas," threatens to taint [press release] her nomination. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) [official website] said Tuesday that Sotomayor's ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano [JURIST report] raised the question of whether she is "allowing her personal or political agenda to cloud her judgment and favor one group of individuals over another, irrespective of what the law says." Sessions has said previously that he did not anticipate a filibuster [JURIST report] against Sotomayor.
In March, US President Barack Obama [official website] asked the ABA to resume [CBS report] its historical role in providing peer-review evaluations of judicial nominees prior to their nomination. The practice had been curtailed by former President George W. Bush [official profile] in 2001 amidst criticism about the ideological independence of the ABA. In May, Obama praised [JURIST report] Sotomayor's experience and wisdom, rebuking Republicans who would oppose her confirmation. Obama warned against partisanship in the confirmation process, saying that he hoped Congress would "avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship" that marked past confirmation hearings. Obama nominated Sotomayor in May to replace retiring [JURIST reports] Justice David Souter [official profile, PDF; JURIST news archive].