U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the United States Supreme Court. The president chose a woman who, if confirmed, will become the first justice of Hispanic descent.
The president says he made his pick for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court after a rigorous selection process.
"I have decided to nominate an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice, Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the great state of New York," he said.
With the new nominee at his side, the president went before an audience in the White House East Room and talked about the qualities he looked for in a Supreme Court justice.
He said strong intellect and an understanding of the role of the judiciary are key. But he says Sonia Sotomayor brings more to the court.
"Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system, providing her with a depth of experience and a breadth of perspective that will be invaluable as a Supreme Court justice," he said.
He noted she has been both a government prosecutor and a private attorney. She became a trial judge in 1992.
"It is a measure of her qualities and her qualifications that Judge Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. District Court by a Republican president, George H. W. Bush, and promoted to the Federal Court of Appeals by a Democrat, Bill Clinton," said Mr. Obama.
The president also cited what he described as her compelling life's journey. The child of parents who moved to New York from Puerto Rico, she grew up in government subsidized housing in one of the toughest parts of the city.
"Sonia, what you have shown in your life, is it does not matter where you come from, what you look like, or what challenges life throws your way, no dream is beyond reach in the United States of America," added President Obama.
In accepting the nomination, Judge Sotomayor said little about the specific issues that she could face on the high court, due to her pending confirmation hearings.
But she talked about her legal philosophy.
"I chose to be a lawyer and ultimately a judge because I find endless challenge in the complexities of the law," she said. "I firmly believe in the rule of law as the foundation for all of our basic rights."
The Supreme Court has the final say on such controversial issues as abortion rights, racial integration and the death penalty.
Some Republicans have indicated they will fight the Sotomayor nomination, saying she is far too liberal and is too committed to a political agenda to impartially interpret the law.
But with Democrats holding a strong majority in the Senate, her chances of confirmation - barring unexpected complications - are very good.