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3 cheers for Bronx homegirl Sonia Sotomayor (UPDATED)

Okay folks.  I’m biased. She’s a Boricua (Puerto Rican), from Da Bronx.  She grew up in the projects.  Anyone who knows the projects and the daily lives of po’ folks in the Big Mango (aka the Big Apple) gets a gold star in my book.

She is really smart.  Saavy. Gutsy.  Has a sense of humor.

take a listen.

UPDATE – adding this video just uploaded to Youtube:

Judge Sonia Sotomayor describes her long journey from a housing project in an urban Puerto Rican neighborhood to the memorable day she was given a private tour of the White House, when she was a newly appointed federal judge.

A video from the Law School Admission Council in 2004.

She is going to be attacked (already has been) by a slew of wing-nuts.

See my diary from early this month:

TNR’s (Rosen) sexist hatchet-job against Sotomayor

Here’s a brief bio from wiki:

Early life and family

Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, New York, to Puerto Rican parents. She grew up in a housing project in the South Bronx, just a short walk from Yankee Stadium. She was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8.[5] Her father, a tool-and-die worker with a third-grade education, died the following year. Her mother, a nurse, raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, who is now a doctor, on a modest salary. In 1976 Sotomayor married while still a student at Princeton University, and divorced in 1983.[5]

Education and early legal career

Sonia Sotomayor graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx. She earned her A.B. from Princeton University, summa cum laude, in 1976, where she won the Pyne Prize, the highest general award given to Princeton undergraduates. Sotomayor obtained her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Sotomayor then served as an Assistant District Attorney under prominent New York County District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, prosecuting robberies, assaults, murders, police brutality, and child pornography cases. In 1984, she entered private practice, making partner at the commercial litigation firm of Pavia & Harcourt, where she specialized in intellectual property litigation.

She tells her own  story at this commencement address to students at Pace University Law School (sorry no transcript available):

Sonia Sotomayor, Pace Law School Annual Commencement, May 18, 2003 (Part 1 of 2)

Sonia Sotomayor, Pace Law School Annual Commencement, May 18, 2003 (Part 2 of 2)

She talks about growing up, speaks about her dreams, her judicial perspective. She talks about her friends, her family, and the importance of valuing goodness and giving to others.  

We will hear a slew of opinions about her judicial perspective, her experience, her attitudes.  

CNN has a review of her background and qualifications which includes a few pithy quotes:

“I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society….

“I further accept that our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions. The aspiration to impartiality is just that – it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact that we are by our experiences making different choices than others….

“Our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor [Martha] Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” [U.C. Berkeley School of Law, 10/26/2001]

Some folks are gonna find those remarks controversial.  For me they are a cause for celebration!  I am simply elated that this homegirl, this extraordinary woman of color, is going to have a shot at the high seat.  

It’s a long road from da Bronx to SCOTUS.  I hope you all will fight back against the attacks that have already been launched and help see her seated at a table that has never had a woman like this.  

To quote Nuyorican poet Pedro Pietri’s classic poem Puerto Rican Obituary:

They worked

They were always on time

They were never late

They never spoke back

when they were insulted

They worked

They never took days off

that were not on the calendar

They never went on strike

without permission

They worked

ten days a week

and were only paid for five

They worked

They worked

They worked

and they died

They died broke

They died owing

They died never knowing

what the front entrance

of the first national city bank looks like






All died yesterday today

and will die again tomorrow…

Sonia Sotomayor defied that obit.  She never gave up on her dreams. She has encouraged young folks to follow those dreams.

Vaya Sonia!


  1. Jjc2008

    and while I am not Puerto Rican or Hispanic, I identify with her greatly. I am came from poor immigrant parents (Sicily and the poorest parts of Southern Italy).  I am darked haired, olive skinned, rounded and curvy, and grew up at a time when the measure of beauty was tall, thin, anglo, blonde, blue eyed, and fair skinned (Sybil Shepard and Twiggy were the female icons of my teen years).

    So I am proud, thrilled, excited.  Also she seems to be a woman who has chosen to live a single life……and I identify with that also.  

    Her academic achievements make me smile……

  2. she seems competent beyond doubt, and it’s one more step away from the monochromatic world.

    I will echo a concern of a guest on the Diane Reem show on PRI today: there are only nine seats, so we need to be careful going forward how thin we try to slice them.  In the end, we cannot have a Hispanic Seat(s) and a Black Seat and a White seat (etc) on the Court and still live to our ideals.  

    As the next few decades pass the composition of courts, lawyers and other strata of society should continue to become more organically homogeneous so this whole issue should fade away.  That will be the day (should I survive to see it) that I will really celebrate.

  3. The first affirmative action president nominates an affirmative action candidate for the supreme court. She’s bossy and opinionated, a bad catholic because she supports abortion, and she believes in an active judiciary. On top of that, even the left-wing National Review says she’s not very bright.

    Get ready for it, because that’s what you are going to hear for quite awhile.

    Here are some answers to those claims.

    Of course she seems bossy and opinionated. That applies to all judges. In fact, she’d be a lousy judge if she was meek. The only reason she gets accused of it is because she is a woman. All women who speak their minds are considered bossy and opinionated.

    A lot of Catholics in this country are torn by the conflict over abortion. They may be against abortion, but don’t believe their religious beliefs should dictate public policy. I’d say that makes them good Americans.

    The Right has already latched onto some comments she made while on a panel that was addressing law students about working as law clerks. She had the gall to say that courts actually set policy. OMG! Like that’s something new. Courts have set policy in this country since its founding. This is something the Right will never accept, but it is the way our system works and is supposed to work.

    The charge that she is not very bright is laughable. That claim comes from the single column in TNR. There were no named sources and the actual record puts the lie to it. She graduated summa cum laude, which is based on actual academic performance and is not an affirmative action award. She was also the editor of the Yale Law Review, another high profile position that is awarded for intellectual ability.

    I’m looking forward to this fight. The Right can only hurt themselves with Hispanic and female voters by arguing against such a qualified Latina. Bring it on.

  4. DeniseVelez

    According to Ben Smith over at Politico:

    Mike Huckabee comes out hard against the Sonia Sotomayor appointment, with a bit of a misfire as concerns her name:

        The appointment of Maria Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama’s campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bipartisan way were mere rhetoric. Sotomayor comes from the far left and will likely leave us with something akin to the “Extreme Court” that could mark a major shift. The notion that appellate court decisions are to be interpreted by the “feelings” of the judge is a direct affront of the basic premise of our judicial system that is supposed to apply the law without personal emotion. If she is confirmed, then we need to take the blindfold off Lady Justice.–



    Way to go Huckster. Yup all Latinas are Maria’s.

    West Side Story told me so.  The maid in tv movies is always named Maria.  I suppose if Obama had nominated a Latino, Huckster would have denounced Pancho, or Cisco. Perhaps Jesus (oops – never Jesus) or Juan Valdez.

    This is just the start. Now she is gonna be too “emotional” cause she ahhh… has “empathy”.

    Popcorn anyone, while we watch the Rethugs shoot themselves in their collective foot?

  5. psychodrew

    I am so happy the president made this announcement today.  This is getting much more attention than the prop 8 decision in California and I’d much rather hear conservatives angry about another “liberal, activist judge” than gloating about protecting traditional marriage.

  6. The Hill published the GOP talking points on the nomination, that were emailed to GOP leaders and (oops) to members of the press at the same time.  Seems that Steele’s Hip-Hop out the chizang revolutionized party still can’t figure out email…

    o President Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court is an important decision that will have an impact on the United States long after his administration.

    o Republicans are committed to a fair confirmation process and will reserve judgment until more is known about Judge Sotomayor’s legal views, judicial record and qualifications.

    o Until we have a full view of the facts and comprehensive understanding of Judge Sotomayor’s record, Republicans will avoid partisanship and knee-jerk judgments – which is in stark contrast to how the Democrats responded to the Judge Roberts and Alito nominations.

    o To be clear, Republicans do not view this nomination without concern. Judge Sotomayor has received praise and high ratings from liberal special interest groups. Judge Sotomayor has also said that policy is made on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

    o Republicans believe that the confirmation process is the most responsible way to learn more about her views on a number of important issues.

    o The confirmation process will help Republicans, and all Americans, understand more about judge Sotomayor’s thoughts on the importance of the Supreme Court’s fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law.

    o Republicans are the minority party, but our belief that judges should interpret rather than make law is shared by a majority of Americans.

    o Republicans look forward to learning more about Judge Sotomayor’s legal views and to determining whether her views reflect the values of mainstream America.

    President Obama on Judicial Nominees

    o Liberal ideology, not legal qualification, is likely to guide the president’s choice of judicial nominees.

    o Obama has said his criterion for nominating judges would be their “heart” and “empathy.”

    o Obama said he believes Supreme Court justices should understand the Court’s role “to protect people who may be vulnerable in the political process.”

    o Obama has declared: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old-and that’s the criterion by which I’ll be selecting my judges.”

    Additional Talking Points

    o Justice Souter’s retirement could move the Court to the left and provide a critical fifth vote for:

    o Further eroding the rights of the unborn and property owners;

    o Imposing a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage;

    o Stripping “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and completely secularizing the public square;

    o Abolishing the death penalty;

    o Judicial micromanagement of the government’s war powers.

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