WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama tapped U.S. Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, officials said, making her the first Hispanic in history picked to wear the robes of a justice.
If confirmed by the Senate, Sotomayor, 54, would succeed retiring Justice David Souter. Two officials described Obama's decision on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement had been made.
Administration officials say Sotomayor would bring more judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice confirmed in the past 70 years.
A formal announcement was expected at midmorning.
Obama had said publicly he wanted a justice who combined intellect and empathy — the ability to understand the troubles of everyday Americans.
Democrats hold a large majority in the Senate, and barring the unexpected, Sotomayor's confirmation should be assured.
If approved, she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court.
Sotomayor is a self-described "Newyorkrican" who grew up in a Bronx housing project after her parents moved to New York from Puerto Rico. She has dealt with diabetes since age 8 and lost her father at age 9, growing up under the care of her mother in humble surroundings. As a girl, inspired by the Perry Mason television show, she knew she wanted to be a judge.
A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, a former prosecutor and private attorney, Sotomayor became a federal judge for the Southern District of New York in 1992.
As a judge, she has a bipartisan pedigree. She was first appointed by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush, then named an appeals judge by President Bill Clinton in 1997.