Meet the Sotomayors

By No, Brian; Taylor, Stuart, Jr. et al. | Newsweek, July 20, 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Meet the Sotomayors


No, Brian, Taylor, Stuart, Jr., Thomas, Evan, Newsweek


Byline: Evan Thomas, Stuart Taylor Jr., And Brian No

One is a Latina firebrand, the other a model of judicial restraint. It's the latter who will appear before the senate judiciary committee. But it's the former, conservative critics fear, who will sit on the highest court in the land. Will the real Sonia Sotomayor please stand up?

In the press portraits written since Barack Obama named her to the Supreme Court in May, two Sonia Sotomayors have emerged. One is the fiery Latina activist who formally complained to the federal government about her university's alleged ethnic bias; who sat on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund when it accused New York City of discrimination in hiring and voting rights; who sometimes suggested that judicial opinions should reflect the gender and ethnic backgrounds of the judges who write them; who asserted that "a wise Latina woman" was likely to reach a better decision than "a white male." The other is the federal court of appeals judge who writes careful, narrowly reasoned opinions that are unexciting but unalarming, that rarely stray from the mainstream.

This week, at her confirmation hearings, the Senate Judiciary Committee will be eager to find out which Justice Sotomayor will show up at the Supreme Court on the traditional first Monday in October that begins the court's year. There is no way the senators will be able to know for sure. Sotomayor's judicial record reveals little. Judges on the federal courts of appeals are supposed to stick to the law and to obey precedent. Supreme Court justices, on the other hand, have a freer hand. While they are supposed to respect the slow evolution of the law, they have more discretion than lower-court judges to express personal views, to vote their consciences, to make the law fit what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. called "the felt necessities of the time."

At her confirmation hearings, Sotomayor is not likely to tip her hand. Her testimony will be carefully considered and undoubtedly guarded. But it is possible to look at the experience that she says did more than any other to shape her--her undergraduate years at Princeton--and get a sense of how her mind works and how she approaches problems. The portrait that emerges is of a shrewd politician who wants to change the system by working within it.

"My days at Princeton -- were the single most transforming experience I have had. It was here that I became truly aware of my Latina identity--something I had taken for granted during my childhood when I was surrounded by my family and their friends," Sotomayor said in a speech to the Third World Center at Princeton in 1996. Her sentiment is not unusual among minorities at the school, which has the most Southern and conservative heritage in the Ivy League. Michelle Obama, who attended Princeton in the early '80s, wrote in her senior thesis that she had never felt more aware of her "blackness" than when she was a student at the university. Although Princeton has become quite diverse, many nonwhite students still say they feel a heightened sense of racial identity.

Princeton transformed Sotomayor in another way that she did not mention in her speech. It taught her how to play a particular sort of power game, to get ahead the Princeton way--not by assertion or bullying, but by reason and carefully prepared persuasion. These are values that Princeton has long taught and still tries to teach. Change is to be achieved by working within the system, not by tearing things down.

When Sotomayor arrived in the fall of 1972, she recalled in her 1996 speech, Prince-ton was "an alien land for me." She was a member of only the fourth class to take women. There were very few blacks or Hispanics. It seemed to Sotomayor that the other students had all gone to prep school and taken tennis lessons and enjoyed ski vacations. In the summer after her freshman year, she read the children's and adolescents' classics she had missed but that seemed familiar to all the prep-school students--Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, and the novels of Jane Austen.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Meet the Sotomayors
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.