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Obama Picks Sotomayor for Supreme Court Slot

The jurist is hard to pigeonhole.

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Acknowledging the pivotal moment, Sotomayor described how it is "when you see an outfielder backpedaling and jumping up to the wall and time stops for an instant as he jumps up and you finally figure out whether it's a home run, a double or a single off the wall or an out."

Then she scolded baseball owners for unfair labor practices and urged lawyers for striking players and the owners to salvage the 1995 season, reach a new labor agreement and change their attitudes.

As she showed with her March 1995 baseball ruling, the 54-year-old Sotomayor embraces the dramatic moment as well as any of the roughly 80 judges in the lower Manhattan courthouse that has been her home since her appointment to the bench in 1992 by President Bush.

As a district judge, she advanced First Amendment religious claims by tossing out a state prison rule banning members of a religious sect from wearing colored beads to ward off evil spirits, and by rejecting a suburban law preventing the display of a 9-foot-high menorah in a park.

In 1995, she released the suicide note of former White House aide Vincent Foster, acting on litigation brought by the Wall Street Journal under the Freedom of Information Act.

Sotomayor, who has a brother who became a doctor, presided over a civil trial in 1996 in which the family of a lawyer who died from AIDS sued the makers of the movie, "Philadelphia," contending that Hollywood stole their story. The case was settled but not before the movie with its dramatic courtroom showdowns was aired in court in its entirety, prompting Sotomayor to caution: "I don't expect melodrama here. I don't want anybody aspiring to what they see on the screen."

A year later, she ruled in favor of the creators of the "Seinfeld" show in a claim that a trivia book infringed on their television program's copyright.

Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, then became an editor of the Yale Law Journal at Yale Law School. She then joined the Manhattan district attorney's office and the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.

She spent five years as a prosecutor before joining the midtown law firm of Pavia & Harcourt, where she worked eight years before her appointment to the federal bench.

Sotomayor is less affluent than many of the typical high court prospects. Though drawing a six-figure income, she lives in expensive Manhattan. Sotomayor earned $179,500 as a federal appellate judge in New York last year, plus $14,780 teaching at New York University's law school and $10,000 as a lecturer at Columbia University's law school, according to her most recent financial disclosure report.

Sotomayor owns a condominium in trendy Greenwich Village. She has had the property since at least 1998, and took out a $350,000 mortgage from JPMorgan Chase Bank last fall, the city records show. Sotomayor refinanced and used proceeds for renovations, her office said.

The condo, the only property Sotomayor owns, appears to be her primary asset. Other units in the building have sold for $900,000 to $1.5 million over the past five years, city records show.

Sotomayor listed two bank accounts as her only investments: $50,000 to $100,000 in a Citibank savings account and up to $15,000 in a checking account.

Since joining the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor has shown an independent streak and an interest in separating emotion from interpretation of the law, as she did in writing the dissent in a 2-to-1 decision in 2000. The appeals court ruled that the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 eight miles off the coast of Long Island occurred within U.S. territorial waters, allowing victims' families to sue for damages that would have been barred if it happened in international seas.

 
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