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Bar News - June 12, 2009

ABA Committee on Federal Judiciary Begins Sotomayor Review

Statement of H. Thomas Wells Jr., ABA President, upon the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

The ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary has begun its peer review of nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor for Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.

We believe the review of Judge Sotomayor’s credentials for this important position in our Third Branch will add the important perspective of lawyers and judges with whom Judge Sotomayor has worked. The ABA Standing Committee’s review process includes the following elements:

All members of the ABA Standing Committee participate in the evaluation. Hundreds of lawyers, judges and members of the community who know Judge Sotomayor professionally will be interviewed by members of the ABA Standing Committee. Those interviewed will be asked to assess Judge Sotomayor on three key criteria: integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament.

Two panels of legal scholars from respected law schools willexamine the nominee’s legal writings for quality, clarity, knowledge of the law and analytical ability. The reading teams are composed of professorswho are recognized experts in various substantive areas of the law.

Another panel of pre-eminent lawyers with Supreme Court and appellate experience also will examine the nominee’s legal writings fromthe perspective of practitioners who are familiar with appellate practice atthe highest level.

Finally, Judge Sotomayor herself will be interviewed at length by members of the Standing Committee regarding her professional qualifications.

After this comprehensive evaluation is completed, the findings will be assembled into a report for review by each member of the committee who will then individually evaluate the nominee as either "well-qualified," "qualified "or "not-qualified." The majority rating constitutes the official rating of the ABA Standing Committee.

The Standing Committee’s independent peer review will provide the Senate with a thoughtful, thorough evaluation of Judge Sotomayor’s professional credentials for serving on the nation’s highest court as the Senate fulfills its constitutional role in the confirmation process.

[Editor’s note: Earlier this year, the ABA had announced that the Obama Administration had indicated it would request that the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary resume its historical role in evaluating the professional qualifications of potential federal judicial nominees on a pre-nomination basis. The following is drawn from ABA President Wells’ statement at the time:]

The ABA Standing Committee, which has been involved in the evaluation process for over 50 years, is pleased to continue to perform this important public service on a pre-nomination basis. Our goal is always to assist both the administration and the Senate Judiciary Committee as they deem appropriate in this process. As ABA president, I can assure you that our Standing Committee takes its role in the process very seriously.

The Standing Committee makes a unique contribution to the process by conducting an extensive peer review of each potential nominee’s integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. The Standing Committee does not consider a potential nominee’s ideological or political philosophy. Its work is fully insulated from, and completely independent of, all other activities of the ABA, and is not influenced by ABA policies.

The Standing Committee itself never proposes or endorses a particular candidate for the federal judiciary; its sole function is to assist the administration and the Senate in evaluating the professional qualifications of potential nominees for a life-time appointment to the federal bench.

The Standing Committee and the ABA look forward to working with the new administration.

For additional information, visit the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary’s website.

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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