History will be made for several reasons when Kamala Devi Harris takes her oath of office as vice president of the United States. But the weight of history doesn’t just fall on Harris, they fall on the woman administering the oath as well — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the bench’s first Latina Supreme Court Justice, and by some accounts, a source of inspiration to the young Kamala Harris who started out as a prosecutor in California, while Sotomayor was working in New York (via ABC).
America’s first Latina Supreme Court justice was born in the Bronx to two Puerto Rican immigrant parents. Her father Juan, was a manual laborer, and her mother Celina, a nurse. Sotomayor experienced grief very early in life. She lost her father when she was just nine, and her mother began working six days a week to support her children (via Oyez).
Sonia Sotomayor was inspired by Perry Mason
Sotomayor got the idea to enter law school not through reading about the country’s brightest legal minds but through fiction. At ten, she watched an episode of Perry Mason, and the rest was history. She won a scholarship to Princeton University after graduating from Cardinal Spellman High School in New York, and from there she proceeded to Yale Law School, and after she graduated, she landed a job at the office of Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau (via Oyez).
She was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1991 during the George H. W. Bush administration, and where one of her most famous decisions was penned on a copyright infringement case involving the show Seinfeld. Oyez says that her decision has since become a standard for the use of the fair use doctrine, which allows for the use of copyright-protected work under specific circumstances (via Copyright).
Sonia Sotomayor joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009
From the U.S. District Court she then went on to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on a recommendation from President Bill Clinton. While Sotomayor’s name was mentioned early in 2009 when Ruth Bader Ginsburg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she ended up being nominated for the seat vacated by David Souter retired in 2009 (via Oyez).
Sotomayor has been a part of the Supreme Court for more than a decade, and in that time, she has developed a reputation for being its most outspoken interrogator. USA Today also says Sotomayor has become the liberal conscience of the decidedly right leaning court, and she specialises in coming to the defense of minority groups, immigrants, criminal defendants, as well as those who await execution on death row. Her interest in criminal justice is shared by Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Sonia Sotomayor has written a children's book
When she is not on the bench, she travels back to the Bronx in New York, as well as to Puerto Rico where she is a role model to children, and where she tells the story that if you work hard enough, you will get ahead. To make her point, she shows off a copy of a children’s book: Turning Pages: My Life Story, which is available in both English and Spanish (via USA Today).
“Every part of this book is what’s happened to my life. The pictures in this book are the pictures of my life. And they can be the pictures of your life, by the way. Because everything I did, I did through reading and through education,” she says.
Sotomayor married her high school sweetheart Kevin Noonan after she graduated from Princeton, and they split up seven years later. They have both remained friends (via HuffPost).
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