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US Senate confirms 1st Hispanic Supreme Court justice
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The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed Sonia Sotomayor's historic nomination as the justice on Supreme Court.

File photo taken on July 13, 2009 shows U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. The U.S. Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor as the country's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice on August 6. [Xinhua]

After month-long hearings and debates over her nomination, the Senate voted by 68 to 31 to confirm the nomination of the 55-year- old appeals court judge from New York, making her the first Hispanic and the third female justice to sit on the bench.

"With this historic vote, the Senate has affirmed that Judge Sotomayor has the intellect, the temperament, the history, the integrity and the independence of mind to ably serve on our nation 's highest court," said President Barack Obama at a press conference after the vote.

According to the Supreme Court, Sotomayor was expected to be sworn in as the 111th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday, with Chief Justice John Roberts administering two oaths of office.

She will repeat one oath as prescribed by the Constitution in a private ceremony at the high court where only her family members are at present, and then take the second oath, which is attended by her family and friends as well as reporters.

The ceremony will be the first one open to TV cameras in the country's history.

U.S. Senator and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont) (front) speaks during a press conference after the U.S. Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, August 6, 2009. [Xinhua]

Sotomayor was born to Puerto Rican parents in Bronx, New York. After her father died when she was only nine, her mother, a nurse, raised two children alone on a modest salary.

She earned her bachelor's degree from the Princeton University and obtained the Juris Doctor degree from the Yale Law School, where she also served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

"These core American ideals -- justice, equality, and opportunity -- are the very ideals that have made Judge Sotomayor's own uniquely American journey possible," said the president.

Widely considered as a political centrist, Sotomayor was nominated by former Republican president George H. W. Bush in 1991 to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She was nominated by former Democratic president Bill Clinton to the seat she now holds, as a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.

She has been regarded as a potential Supreme Court nominee by several presidents, both Republican and Democratic, and appeared again as a candidate after Souter, 69, announced at the end of April that he would retire from the Supreme Court in June.

The selection of Sotomayor was considered a way to please Latinos, women and political independent, three major groups of supporters to Obama's presidential campaign.

However, Republicans and Democrats deeply split over Sotomayor's nomination, due to their rooting disagreements on the philosophical makeup of the highest court.

(Xinhua News Agency August 7, 2009)

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