While Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge for 17 years, heads into hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee to be considered for the U. S. Supreme Court, her burden has been made lighter by the rating given her by the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. Judge Sotomayor received a unanimous "well qualified" rating - the highest rating given by the Committee's 15 members, who judged Sonia Sotomayor to be of exceptional ability to be a Supreme Court Justice!
The ABA Federal Judiciary Committee gave its highest rating based upon Judge Sotomayor's integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament for the Supreme Court. All but one of the current Supreme Court Justices have received "well qualified" ratings - only 3 ratings are given: "well qualified" - "qualified" - "unqualified" (Clarence Thomas was rated "qualified").
Thankfully, the ABA's Standing Committee does not take into account a nominee’s philosophy, political affiliation or ideology. While the ABA's criteria of integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament are the basis for the Standing Committee’s evaluation of all federal court nominees, the ABA Committee’s investigations of Supreme Court nominees are particularly rigorous and the peer-review process is structured to achieve impartial evaluations. The significance, range and complexity of the issues considered by the Supreme Court demand that nominees appointed to the Court be of exceptional ability.
The ABA, founded in 1878, has provided evaluations of judicial nominees since 1953. The Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary consists of 15 members - 2 from the Ninth Circuit, 1 from each of the other 12 federal judicial circuits and 1 member-at-large - appointed for staggered 3-year terms by the President of the ABA based on their reputations for professional competence, integrity and devotion to public service. Each member of the Standing Committee spends roughly 1,000 hours per year on a voluntary basis to provide this vital public service.