Conservative court watchers say President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace retiring David Souter on the Supreme Court faces an uphill battle.
Federal Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nine letter surname would be the longest of all the justices on the court, says former House speaker Newt Gingrich, making it difficult to fit on the back of the court’s mandatory judicial black robe.
The New York jurist, who would be the first Hispanic American on the high court, is expected to face a contentious Senate confirmation, said Gingrich.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy and John Paul Stevens have seven letter surnames, while the last name of David Souter, whom Sotomayor is replacing, has six letters. ‘Sotomayor’ is just too radical a change,” he said.
“It’s dangerous to disregard the precedent of having justices whose names are easily readable on the back of the pleated, flowing robes ” Gingrich said.
Judge Albee Uvthat of the conservative judicial group Federalist Society agreed with Gingrich. “History is littered with Supreme Court nominations of presidents trying to go against precedent,” Uvthat said. Uvthat gave William Hornblower (ten letters, 1894) and Clement Haynsworth (nine letters, 1969) as two examples of the Senate rejecting long-named nominees.
However, liberals familiar with the history of the Supreme Court say the right is merely looking for payback — still smarting over the Senate’s rejection of short-named Robert Bork, nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1987.