by Logan Snook
Fearless. Role model. Trail blazer. Committed. All four of these has been used to describe Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor went straight to work upon her appointment as Associate Judge in 2009 by President Barack Obama, “skipping the shy period of settling into the job and beginning to fire questions during oral arguments immediately.” Throughout her career, Sotomayor has been known for her fiery-attitude and commitment to her work, traits that she has exhibited her entire life.
Sotomayor was born to a Puerto Rican family, and grew up in a public housing project in the Bronx in New York. Her mother was a nurse, and her father worked in manual labor until he passed away when Sotomayor was only 9. Her mother worked tirelessly to support her family and send her children to private Catholic school, where Sotomayor graduated valedictorian. It was her mother that instilled in Sotomayor a strong work ethic and a belief in the power of education.
Sotomayor received a scholarship to attend Princeton University, where she earned her B.A. in History, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the university’s highest academic honor in 1976. She went on to earn her J.D. from Yale Law School in 1979. Both at Princeton and Yale, Sotomayor worked with Latin American student groups and wrote and published pieces centered on Puerto Rican subjects.
After graduating from Yale, Sotomayor served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office for 5 years. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, where she served from 1992-1998. It was here that Sotomayor became known as the judge who “saved” Major League Baseball during a tempestuous 1995 strike. From 1998–2009, she served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit at the appointment of President Bill Clinton.
In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, taking the seat of David Souter after his retirement. This appointment was widely celebrated, making Sotomayor the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court, as well as the first person to serve from the working-class Bronx. Sotomayor’s voice in the Supreme Court has been firm and just, often leaning to the liberal side. She has worked to prohibit state universities from considering race in the admissions process, voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act, and legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country.
Sotomayor is strongly connected to the community and helping youths of America. She has recruited judges to invite young women to the courthouse on Take Your Daughter to Work Day to introduce them to Government, mentors young students from troubled neighborhoods, and has created the Development School for Youth program, working with inner city high school students to teach them how to function in a work setting, and opening possibilities for them they did not know were possible.
Incase this isn’t enough, in 2012, Sotomayor stopped by Sesame Street to talk about careers and being a Supreme Court Justice for children, and it is the sweetest, most empowering video.