The Other 'Hispanic' Nominee
Thu Aug 13, 3:00 am ET
Let's talk about the obstacles, adversity and disadvantages of another Hispanic nominee, one whom many thought — pre-Sotomayor — worthy of future consideration as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.
Born in Honduras — the child of a broken home — this nominee immigrated to the United States at 17 years of age, arriving with a limited command of the English language. The nominee's mother spoke no English. But four years later, the nominee graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor's degree from Columbia University. The nominee went on to Harvard Law School, served as editor of the Harvard Law Review and received a Juris Doctor degree magna cum laude.
The nominee served as a clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, practiced law in New York, and then served as an assistant U.S. attorney, later joining the Justice Department as an assistant to the solicitor general for the Clinton administration.
Overcoming personal adversity? The nominee's spouse died from an accidental overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills, after the couple had suffered through a miscarriage.
The American Bar Association — whose evaluation was once hailed as "the gold standard by which judicial candidates are judged," by Senate Judiciary Committee member (and current chairman) Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. — unanimously gave the nominee its top "well-qualified" rating. Yet the nominee — despite an admirable record of overcoming personal and professional "obstacles" and "adversity" — met with a hailstorm of opposition, including a filibuster to prevent an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.
The Senate only had 55 votes to end the filibuster, but it requires 60 votes to end one. If the Democrats had allowed a full vote, the nominee would have had enough Senate votes to reach confirmation. After all, Clarence Thomas only got 52 votes for his confirmation. Finally, because of fierce opposition by Democratic senators — including the lengthy, seven-month filibuster staged as a procedure-delaying tactic to deny a full Senate confirmation vote — the nominee withdrew in 2003. "This should serve as a wake-up call to the White House that it cannot simply expect the Senate to rubber-stamp judicial nominees," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
The nominee was Miguel Estrada.
Then-President George W. Bush, in 2001, nominated him to the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Had Estrada secured the nomination — and had Republicans retained the White House in 2008 — many would have placed Estrada on the list of possible future Supreme Court justices. He, not Sotomayor, could have become that court's first Hispanic justice. Instead, the "minority-sensitive" Democrats treated him like a child molester. One staff strategy memo sent to Sen. Durbin in 2001 — when the Democrats ran the Senate Judiciary Committee — called Estrada "especially dangerous, because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino (emphasis added), and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment."