This week, CMomA is thrilled to recognize Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She is its first Hispanic (of Puerto Rican descent) and its third female justice.
Born in The Bronx, New York City, Sotomayor was raised by her mother after her father died when she was nine. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976 and received her Doctorate (J.D.) from Yale Law School in 1979. She has served as an assistant district attorney, in private practice, and on the boards of directors for many impactful institutions. Making her way up through the U.S. Court ranks, Sotomayor was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in 2009.
Sotomayor has said that she was first inspired by the strong-willed Nancy Drew book character, and planned to become a detective. After she was diagnosed with diabetes (and told by her doctors detective work would be impractical for a diabetic), she was inspired to go into a legal career and become a judge by watching the Perry Mason television shows. In a 1998 New York Daily News article, she reflected, “I was going to college and I was going to become an attorney, and I knew that when I was ten. Ten. That’s no jest.”
She has given over 180 speeches since 1993. The themes of her speeches have often focused on ethnic experience, the need for diversity, and America’s struggle with its own diversity. During 2012, Sotomayor made two appearances on Sesame Street, explaining what a career is and demonstrating how a judge hears a case. In June 2010, the Bronxdale Houses development, where Sotomayor grew up, was renamed after her.
Sotomayor holds numerous honorary law degrees from prestigious U.S. colleges, and in January 2013, published a memoir about the early part of her life, My Beloved World (Mi mundo adorado in the simultaneously published Spanish edition). It focuses on her life up to 1992, with recollections of growing up in housing projects in New York and other challenges she faced. On December 31, 2013, Sotomayor became the first United States Supreme Court justice to press the ceremonial button and lead the final 60-second countdown at the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop.
For an inspiring and thoughtful glimpse of Sonia Sotomayor (in addition to her book), see this fantastic interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. In addition to frank questions and answers about her childhood and career, there is a fantastic discussion about being childless.
We’ll leave you with this quote, but do read the whole interview!