To veterans of the increasingly rancorous judicial nomination process, the fight over Estrada's appointment has a familiar ring. Senate Democrats and liberal interest groups say Estrada represents the latest [Bush] administration attempt to "pack the courts with people who will roll back critical rights and protections," in the words of Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice. Republicans accuse Estrada's opponents of trying to block a well- qualified lawyer because he does not conform to their ideology.
The added element of ethnic politics makes the Estrada nomination more than just another skirmish in the battle for control of the lower courts: If confirmed, Estrada would immediately become a leading candidate to be named the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court. Such a historic appointment could help Bush not only tilt the high court to the right, but also make political gains among the fast-growing ranks of Hispanic voters.
Yet if Estrada was relatively privileged economically and socially, he faced personal obstacles. Estrada's mother left for the United States in 1969 amid a bitter divorce and child custody battle with his father -- she took Estrada's sister; Estrada, then only 8, stayed with his father.
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