This week we bring you our third judicial hero, the brilliant New York native Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, Sotomayor made history as the first Latina appointed to the Supreme Court. Justice Sotomayor has a special place in my heart because she is one of my personal legal role models. Being a Latina woman myself, it is beautiful to see Justice Sotomayor in the very field I aspire to pursue.
Sotomayor attended Princeton University on a full scholarship in part because affirmative action made up for her standardized test scores, which were not as competitive as those of other applicants. Following Princeton, she enrolled at Yale Law School, once again on a scholarship.
Justice Sotomayor has never shied away from speaking openly about the cultural biases built into standardized testing. She has also praised affirmative action for fulfilling its purpose of creating the conditions whereby students from disadvantaged backgrounds can be brought to the starting line of a race where many were unaware one was even being run. Justice Sotomayor claims that affirmative action gave her a chance to compete with others in her field and prove that she too could excel.
Soon after passing the bar in 1980, she began working as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, serving as a trial lawyer. During her time at the DA’s, Justice Sotomayor prosecuted cases involving robbery, assault, murder, police brutality, and child pornography.
In her time on the Supreme Court, Justice Sotomayor remains relatively public through her speeches. Many of her speeches focus on issues of ethnic identity and experience, the need for diversity, or themes of gender. Keep on fighting the good fight, Justice Sotomayor!
Most Notable Decisions
J.D.B. v. North Carolina [564 US ___ (2011)] – The police suspected that J.D.B., a 13-year-old student enrolled in special education, committed two robberies. They proceeded to interrogate him without reading him his Miranda rights nor contacting his legal guardians. The Supreme Court held that age is relevant while determining police custody for Miranda purposes. Justice Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion in the case and stated that “to hold that a child’s age is never relevant to whether a suspect has been taken into custody— and thus to ignore the very real differences between children and adults— would be to deny children the full scope of the procedural safeguards that Miranda guarantees to adults.”
Arizona v. United States [567 U.S. ___ (2012)] – This case struck down several components of the Arizona SB 1070 anti-immigration law – and pro-discrimination law, might I add.
At her first end-of-term party, Justice Sotomayor convinced the other justices to salsa dance with her. In 2012, Justice Sotomayor made two appearances on Sesame Street, explaining what a vocational career is and then demonstrating how a judge hears a case. #CareerGoals, am I right? Get it?