Obama announces Supreme Court nominee


US president Barack Obama has nominated Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court, selecting a woman who would be the court's first Latino to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

Mr Obama's choice of Ms Sotomayor, a 54-year-old judge on the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, was unlikely to change the ideological makeup of the high court because Mr Souter (69) was part of the panel's liberal wing.

The court hands down rulings on such divisive social issues as abortion rights and the death penalty as well as deciding business and property rights cases. Its members are appointed for life but require Senate confirmation.

Conservatives quickly moved to criticise the choice but political analysts said that, barring an unexpected scandal, there was little chance the nomination could be derailed.

Ms Sotomayor, a child of Puerto Rican parents, is most widely known for her decision as a trial judge in 1995 to bar Major League Baseball from using replacement players, ending a nearly year-long strike.

Hoping to show a consultative approach, Mr Obama had been meeting with key Democratic and Republican members of the Senate, which must vote to approve the nominee, as he weighed a short list of mostly women to replace Mr Souter.

Analysts, noting that Mr Obama, a former senator, voted against Republican president George W Bush's two Supreme Court nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, said it was unrealistic for him to expect conservatives not to resist his pick.

Some Republicans indicated they planned a fight over the nomination, angered by Mr Obama's decisions loosening limits on stem cell research and eliminating other Bush administration restrictions favored by abortion opponents.

But Senate Republicans would need 60 votes to block the nomination with a procedural hurdle known as a filibuster. To do that, all 40 would have to stand together - something that is far from guaranteed.

Wendy Long, a counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network, called Ms Sotomayor a "liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written".

Ms Sotomayor has been a Court of Appeals judge in New York since 1998. Before that she served as a US District Court judge for the Southern District of New York.

She began her law career in 1979 as an assistant district attorney in New York County, and later practiced law at the firm of Pavia & Harcourt.

Her focus at the firm was on intellectual property issues and international litigation and arbitration of commercial and commodity export trading cases, according to a court biography.

Ms Sotomayor grew up in a housing project in the Bronx in New York City. Ms Sotomayor, who is divorced, excelled as a student and graduated from Princeton University and then Yale Law School.