NASW Statement on the Nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court

Jun 15, 2009

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds President Obama’s historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.  We appreciate Judge Sotomayor’s distinguished judicial record, highlighted by her respect for human dignity and the needs of all Americans.

The federal courts often are called the guardians of the constitution because their rulings protect the rights and liberties guaranteed by this most esteemed of documents.  For numerous Americans, the federal judiciary is the primary line of defense against violations of dearly held constitutional principles; for others, it is the final bastion of hope in a system that has marginalized them.

Judge Sotomayor has issued several rulings we support as social workers, and she has boldly dissented on cases in which individual rights were not fully appreciated by the majority.  For example, she has upheld the rights of citizens to sue corporations acting on behalf of the federal government when the corporation in question has violated the citizen’s rights.

In terms of dissenting opinions, Judge Sotomayor courageously supported the rights of adolescent girls whom she believed were needlessly strip searched in juvenile detention centers.  Although her colleagues disagreed, Judge Sotomayor’s dissent reinforced her regard for the safety and well being of all people.

Dr. Elizabeth Clark, NASW’s Executive Director, states that “Judge Sotomayor’s record encompassing 17 years as a federal judge, at both the district and circuit levels, in addition to her prosecutorial and corporate work, reflect a sophisticated grasp of legal doctrine and an astute awareness of the law’s impact upon average Americans.”

Additionally, Judge Sotomayor would bring increased diversity to the Court.  Like all deliberative bodies, the Court functions best when it considers a broad range of perspectives. This leads to rulings that cover the rights and interests of many oppressed, underserved, and underrepresented groups.  Judge Sotomayor’s decisions have proven that she is not just an example of such diversity, but also a champion of it.

“Judge Sotomayor’s life experiences and wealth of knowledge suggest that social work’s core values would be equitably represented in the Supreme Court deliberations,” said Clark.  “America deserves a justice of this enormous stature.”

Judge Sotomayor’s overall record demonstrates the judicial sensitivity NASW has always endorsed and valued.  The Association is actively supporting Sotomayor’s confirmation.