President Obama announced today he has chosen federal judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed, Obama's nominee will replace retiring Justice David Souter, who announced this month he would step down when the court's current session ends this summer.
CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin spoke to T.J. Holmes about the pick on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday.
T.J. Holmes: Jeffrey, any surprises here to you? It seems like she has been the front-runner since David Souter said he was going to step down.
Jeffrey Toobin: Well, if the president was going to pick a judge, it seemed very likely that Sotomayor was going to be the one. She is a very eminent judge. She would be the first Hispanic judge. She brings a certain bipartisan aura because she was originally appointed to the federal district court by the first President Bush. But President Obama has often spoke of the fact that he thinks people who are not judges should be appointed to the Supreme Court; people who are governors, who are politicians. And certainty he gave that possibility serious consideration. But in the end, he decided to pick one more federal appeals court judge to complete the all nine lineup on the court of all appellate court judges... Yes, it is possible he will have more appointments, but you never know. And he's had one so far. And this looks like a very solid pick, someone who will probably have very little trouble getting confirmed. And who will be a voice like David Souter for moderate liberalism.
Holmes: Moderate liberalism. That's what Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz told us earlier. He described her as moderate and to the left. Is that about right?
Toobin: I would say that's right. You never know for sure, because circuit court judges are bound by Supreme Court precedent. Supreme Court justices are less bound by Supreme Court precedent, so they have a little more running room. They get to expose their own inclinations to a greater degree than circuit court judges. So certainly she will be to the left on the court, with the three other liberals on the court - John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We'll see how liberal she is. I don't think anyone can know for sure. She probably doesn't even know at this point.
Holmes: You don't perceive her having any problem getting confirmed as you said here. So this one could go fairly smoothly for the president. You don't perceive having any issues getting in place on the bench when their new season starts up in the fall?
Toobin: Certainly based on what's known about Judge Sotomayor currently, I can't imagine any problems with confirmation. She has been a very distinguished judge for now pushing 20 years. Certainly there may be decisions that people disagree with, but there have been no ethical controversies involving her, no scandals. As John McCain liked to say, elections have consequences. And President Obama has picked someone who more or less reflects his own political views. He will likely have 60 votes in the Senate in the Democratic Party by summer. It just seems based on what's known now that this would be inconceivable as a defeated nomination.
Editor's note: Jeffrey Toobin is a CNN senior analyst and a staff writer at The New Yorker. A former assistant U.S. attorney, Toobin is the author of several critically acclaimed bestsellers, including "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court" and "Too Close to Call: The 36-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election."