Will Sotomayor's Storied Heritage Help Her to the Bench?

Sotomayor and Supreme Court

Just days before Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings are set to begin, conservative critics are escalating their rhetoric.

Some Republicans have tried to paint Sotomayor as a liberal activist, taking shots at her for backing affirmative action policies and her position on gun rights. But, with the hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to begin on Monday, July 13, there remains no indication that any one group or specific individual, will gain enough traction to effectively derail Sotomayor's nomination.

Video of Sonia Sotomayors brother talking about her family heritage.
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Tune into ABCNews.com July 13 at 10 a.m for gavel to gavel live coverage of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

But that doesn't mean Sotomayor will be let off scot-free. Republicans announced on Thursday that they will call New Haven, Conn., firefighter Frank Ricci, who was involved in the reverse discrimination case rejected by Sotomayor on the appellate court, to testify against the judicial nominee. Many conservatives have suggested that her ruling on the case, which was overturned in June by the Supreme Court, is an example of Sotomayor's inability to separate her personal beliefs from her decisions on the bench.

Democrats on Monday will likely push back against these claims, touting Sotomayor as a judge who courts supporters on both sides of the aisle. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former FBI Director Louis Freeh and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, Sotomayor's first boss, are among the witnesses who will speak in her favor.

For the first time this month, Sotomayor made a visit to Capitol Hill Thursday, meeting with the newest member of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- not to mention the greenest senator -- Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. Franken is one of nearly 90 members with whom the nominee has met. Since her nomination in May, Sotomayor has made a concerted effort to reach out to members of both parties.

What Are the Odds?

Absent a curveball during the confirmation process, the New York appellate judge will likely be confirmed to replace Justice David Souter on the bench in September. Sotomayor, who if confirmed to the court would be the first Hispanic U.S. justice, enjoys wide support from Americans. As reflected in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 62 percent say Sotomayor should be confirmed, among the highest levels of support for a high court nominee in polling data back to Robert Bork in 1987.

The Hispanic nominee has a striking personal tale that fits the bill for the type of Supreme Court justice President Barack Obama outlined as his first choice.

"You have to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you," Obama said in a CSPAN interview in May. "But you have to be able to stand in somebody else's shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living."

A woman of Latina heritage who was raised in the Bronxdale Houses, a sprawling project in the South Bronx, one could say Sotomayor defied the odds.

Her only sibling, Juan Sotomayor, told ABC News' senior national correspondent Claire Shipman that his sister is "the perfect role model."

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