Sonia Sotomayor: In Her Own Words

Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor has been a busy lady lately, jetting from NYC to D.C. with regularity for meetings with senators. She recently handed over scores of videos in which she appeared over the last 25 years, illuminating her views. The New York Times ran a recap of the insights found in these videos, including Judge Sotomayor's reasoning behind some of her decisions and the way she conducts her court, in her own words.

Empathy: This issue has become a lightning rod, mainly because President Obama went out of his way to point it out as a virtue he would actively seek in any judge he nominated to the Supreme Court. On this point, Sotomayor admitted that she does have an emotional repsonse to cases, noting that it is especially difficult when sentencing people to long prison sentences and seeing the effects it has on their families. “Does that translate into a passion or a compassion that affects my
judgment? No," Sotomayor says, "But it makes it much more important for me to be careful
when I exercise my judgment. And any judge who I think tends to
suppress that might be doing a disservice. You have to know what people
feel.”

Temperament: Since her nomination, some lawyers have complained that Judge Sotomayor is too "curt" in her handling of cases. In the videos, Sotomayor explains that judges in her position are handling around 500 cases at a time and urges lawyers to be efficient when arguing their cases. “Please come in, make your argument succinctly. Figure out what your
issue is up front and don’t let the judge figure it out for you in
argument. If you have a weakness in your case, state it and address it.
Don’t attempt to hide it by skirting around it. I think most judges
will ultimately find it and be resentful that you’ve attempted to
sidestep the issue, rather than facing it up front and saying, 'This is
the difficulty in my case, but I think you should ignore it, distinguish it or do what needs to be done to get around it.' ”

Brown vs. the Board of Education: Back in 1994, Sotomayor spoke to students about the famous ruling which declared "separate but equal" to be unconstitutional and ended segregation. “Brown said to the country that it’s against our Constitution for people to
treat each other differently. Everybody has to be given the same
education. Everybody has to be given the same opportunity in our
country. That was the courts telling the society, 'You have to change.'
And change we did. Look around this room. There’s a lot of colors in
this room. ... We are a country of the kind we’ve become
because a court had the vision to say to our society, 'Change.' And we
did.”

These tapes seem to be the clearest indication yet of how Sotomayor would rule as a Supreme Court Justice. Tell us: What do you think about her views and opinions? 

Share this 
About this author1

Mariela Rosario,

I'm a raging opinionista and I love to share my ramblings on everything from pop culture to food to stuff that makes me laugh & cry! I've worked in all types of media (TV, film, print) and was previously the online editor at Latina magazine before joining Mamás Latinas. On most nights you can find me working my way through my library of cookbooks or playing with my puppy Lola (my only child so far). I have a wonderful hubby who shares my passion for any and all kinds of travel. Together, we've formed a semi-professional wine drinking team.

Like this post? Contribute to the discussion!