President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated federal appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor LAW ’79 to the Supreme Court.

If confirmed, Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic justice to serve on the high court, and only the third woman. She has served on the New York-based United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit since 1998 and has heard several controversial cases, including Ricci v. DeStefano, the reverse-discrimination case about a promotion exam for the New Haven Fire Department.

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The Ricci case is posed to become a pivotal one during Sotomayor’s confirmation process, as the Supreme Court is currently deciding the reverse-discrimination suit.

Sotomayor, 54, would replace Justice David Souter, who announced his retirement last month. The Yale Law School alumna would join two other Elis — Clarence Thomas LAW ’74 and Samuel Alito LAW ’75 — on the Supreme Court.

“My heart today is bursting with gratitude,” Sotomayor said from the White House lectern after Obama announced her nomination.

In his announcement, the president called Sotomayor “an inspiring woman,” and said she has “faced down barriers” and “overcame the odds” in her journey from a Bronx housing project to two elite universities, Princeton and Yale, and then to the federal bench.

Sotomayor is the daughter of Puerto Rican parents and was raised in the South Bronx. After her father died when she was eight, Sotomayor was raised by her mother, whom she credits for pushing her to go to Princeton, where she graduated with honors in 1976. After graduating from Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal, Sotomayor served as an assistant district attorney in New York County under Robert Morgenthau LAW ’48.

Sotomayor reflected on that journey in her remarks on Tuesday. “I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government,” she said.

Both of Connecticut’s senators praised Obama’s choice on Tuesday, saying they look forward to the Senate’s consideration of Sotomayor’s nomination.

“President Obama has promised to bring change to Washington and he continues to do that with his choice for Supreme Court Justice,” Sen. Chris Dodd said in a statement. “Judge Sotomayor is a highly qualified and historic nominee.”

In a separate statement, Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 added: “Judge Sotomayor’s career represents the best of the American dream, and she possesses distinguished and superior legal credentials.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said Tuesday that Senate Republicans would treat Sotomayor “fairly.” But he also said that Obama’s nominee would receive all due scrutiny.

“We will thoroughly examine her record to ensure she understands that the role of a jurist in our democracy is to apply the law evenhandedly,” he said, “despite their own feelings or personal or political preferences.”