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Like a Gold Rush town in California, the infrastructure of the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation industry went up almost overnight after Justice David Souter’s May 1 announcement that he plans to retire in late June.

Last week interest groups on all sides were gearing up for battle, even without a name to fight over. Ethnic and gender politics are under way, as groups pressure President Barack Obama to nominate someone from a rainbow of nonwhite-male possibilities. One Hispanic short-lister, Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2d Circuit, has already been torn up and put back together by dueling commentators who talk about her demeanor as much as her decisions. Controversial YouTube clips of comments she made at Duke Law School in 2005 about the role of appeals courts as policymakers have emerged.

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