A Conversation with Justice Sonia Sotomayor

By Ayers, Andrew B. | Albany Law Review, Spring 2018 | Go to article overview

A Conversation with Justice Sonia Sotomayor


Ayers, Andrew B., Albany Law Review


ALBANY LAW SCHOOL Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom Monday, April 3, 2017

The following is a transcript of Justice Sonia Sotomayor's conversation
on April 3, 2017, with Albany Law students, as well as Alicia
Ouellette, the President and Dean of Albany Law School, and Andy Ayers,
Visiting Assistant Professor and Director of the Government Law Center,
who clerked for Justice Sotomayor when she was a judge on the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Prof. Ayers: Here we go. My name is Andy Ayers. I'm the director of the Government Law Center and a visiting assistant professor here at Albany Law School. I'll be co-moderating tonight's discussion.

As you know, every year Albany Law School honors Kate Stoneman, who was the first woman to be admitted to the New York Bar--due in large part due to a campaign that she orchestrated to make that possible--and who graduated as our first woman graduate in 1898, one hundred and nineteen years ago. Every year we give an award to someone for bringing about change and opportunities for women in the legal profession. Nobody could possibly deserve it more than our guest this evening.

Born in the Bronx in 1954, she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University. [Applause.] She went to Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. Yeah, I see one hand pumping in the air. She was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and in private practice for a few years. [Cheer.] All right, we've got one of those, too. And she was nominated to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by the first President Bush, to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton, and to the Supreme Court of the United States by President Barack Obama in 2009.

She'll be joined tonight on the panel by our President and Dean, Alicia Ouellette. Please join me in welcoming Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

[Applause. Justice Sotomayor enters with Dean Ouellette and poses for a picture with the panelists.]

Justice Sotomayor: You know, Andy, you get into this position and you learn how to give up not liking yourself in pictures. [Laughter.] Many of you may know I was once married, and at my wedding back then, you paid for the pictures you got, a hundred of them, and it was a package fee. At picture number 68, I told the photographer, go away. [Laughter.] I have stopped doing that now.

Dean Ouellette: Well, Justice, we are so, so happy to have you here. It is really an honor of a lifetime for every member of the Albany Law School community to welcome you here. And we are especially glad to have you here as we celebrate Kate Stoneman Day, which is a day on which we honor women who make a difference, who take chances, are bold, and change the world for the people who come after them, particularly for women and people of color. And adding you to that legacy makes us a better place forever, and we're just so grateful to have you here.

We have a tradition on Kate Stoneman Day of having a keynote address. Our keynote address this year will be a little nontraditional. We're going to have a conversation. And Andy and I will start out by asking you a couple of questions, and then we've got some students who are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to ask you some question as well.

"I Hope My Opinions Will Become More Engaging, More Readable, More
Everything."

Dean Ouellette: So I'd like to start by asking a question about personal style in both your public appearances and your book, and your judicial opinions. In your public appearances and throughout your book--which I loved, and I hope you all buy and read, it's really wonderful--you share your vulnerabilities, you talk about struggles, you talk about your imposter syndrome at times, and you share your big personality. In your judicial opinions, you are incredibly professional, brilliant, of course, but there aren't the rhetorical flourishes in the same way that we see in your book and when you talk in public. …

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