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L.A. Latinos savor Supreme Court choice

It's about time, some say, as President Obama nominates federal judge Sonia Sotomayor. She would be the court's first Latina.

May 27, 2009|Alexandra Zavis and Hector Becerra

From a popular eatery in East L.A. to the corridors of political power, Latinos relished the nomination Tuesday of one of their own to the U.S. Supreme Court, a choice they said would bring fresh perspective to the nation's highest court.

If confirmed, federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York would be the Supreme Court's first Latina.

"I think it's about time," said Antonio Hernandez, 37, who owns Teresitas Restaurant in East L.A. with his parents. "Latinos are making a prominent impact on all levels of government as we grow more into the American way of life."

Hernandez is acquainted with high-flying Latinas nominated by President Obama. Hilda Solis, who became his Labor secretary, was a regular customer.

"I think Obama is trying to include everybody," Hernandez said as he ate cereal at a counter Tuesday morning. "That's how he ran his campaign."

Latino and other civil rights advocates have long argued that the nation's highest court should better reflect the makeup of U.S. society. The court has one female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and one black justice, Clarence Thomas.

Community leaders had pressed Obama, who came into office with a majority of the Latino vote, to appoint a Latino to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter.

"It's absolutely thrilling to see a Latina walk into the East Room today at the White House to accept the nomination," said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the Los Angeles-based National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. "It's important to have the perspective of this large and growing population on the Supreme Court."

A former prosecutor, Sotomayor has served as a federal judge for the Southern District of New York and is now an appeals judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

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alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

hector.becerra @latimes.com

Evan Halper in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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