Chief Justice Leah Sears pleased with Obama’s choice to U.S. Supreme Court

No hard feelings here.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Leah Ward Sears showed no signs of resentment toward Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor during a talk to the Atlanta Press Club on Tuesday at the Commerce Club.

For several weeks leading up to the announcement by President Barack Obama, Sears had been mentioned as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Execellent. Brilliant pick,” Sears said in response to a question about Sotomayor. “We need diversity on the court. She’s eminently qualified to serve. I’m really glad she’s moving ahead.”

Sotomayor has been criticized by some for comments she made in a 2001 speech that a “wise Latina judge” might reach a better judgment on cases than a white male judge.

Sears was asked her thoughts about the role a judge’s personal background should play on the bench.

“She is different than everyone else on the court, and that’s a good thing,” Sears said of Sotomayor. “When you sit on the court, and when you are reading a law, everything is filtered through who I am.”

For Sears, she’s a 53-year-old African-American worman who was born in Germany who is a mother and a wife.

“All that colors the way you look at life,” she said. “All of us sit on the court with shades on with your life experiences, your prism. And that’s different from the prism of the next guy.”

Sears, who is stepping down from the bench at the end of this month, also shed more light on why she decided to leave the court at this time.

“Frankly, I’ve stayed longer than I ever thought,” she said of her 17 years on the court. And then she shared a personal tragedy. In November 2007, her then 53-year-old brother committed suicide just after leaving Iraq.”

That caused her to reassess her own place.

As she said: “Life is short.”

For her next step, Sears is joining the Atlanta office of the Chicago-based law firm of Schiff Hardin, and she also plans to be a fellow with the Institute for American Values, a pro-family think tank.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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