Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor

With a new President comes a changing of the guard at the White House, and Supreme Court retirements are usually not far behind. Sure enough, by mid-April Justice David Souter had informed the Obama Administration of his desire to return home to his beloved New Hampshire. Enter Sonia Sotomayor, 55, a judge on the Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in New York and President Obama's nominee to replace Souter. That she had first been nominated for a federal judgeship by President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and had been confirmed by the Senate twice helped blunt GOP criticism. After a relatively smooth hearing process, Sotomayor was confirmed by a Senate vote of 68-31, with nine Republicans crossing party lines to support her. She was sworn in on Aug. 8, becoming the first Hispanic to serve on the nation's highest court, and provided one of TIME's buzzwords of 2009: "wise Latina."

— Jay Newton-Small