Friday, August 7, 2009


Judge Sonia Sotomayor was greeted in her West Village neighborhood on Thursday after the Senate confirmed her nomination.

Now comes the hard part.

With the Senate’s approval of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court on Thursday, the new justice will soon take on one of the most demanding jobs in the land.

Just over a month from now, Justice Sotomayor will hear her first case, one that may transform how elections are financed, at a special summer session of the court. A few weeks later, she will join her eight new colleagues to decide which of the hundreds of appeals that have piled up over the summer the court should hear.

The volume and difficulty of the work, and the task of fitting into a storied institution populated by strong and idiosyncratic personalities, has unnerved even judges with distinguished records on lower courts, fancy credentials and ample self-confidence.

The new justice’s presence will unsettle and reshuffle the court, sometimes literally. When she takes the seat reserved for the junior justice — the one on the spectators’ far right side — four other justices will move to new places on the bench. When there is a knock at the door during the justices’ private conferences, it will be Justice Sotomayor’s job to answer it.

In addition to the blockbuster election-law case, the new term is frontloaded with important First Amendment, business, criminal and patent cases. Justice Sotomayor’s early votes and opinions, along with alliances she forges, will provide answers to at least some of the questions she avoided in confirmation hearings.

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