Is sonia a baseball player in spanish? On January 20, 2021, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Harris’s oath of office marks an exciting moment, as the California senator is the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American vice president of the United States.
And though it isn’t Sotomayor’s first time swearing in a vice president—she swore in now-President Joe Biden in his second VP term back in 2013—the 66-year-old Supreme Court justice is a poignant pick for Harris’s history-making event. As the United States’s first Latina Supreme Court justice, Sotomayor knows the triumphs and the challenges that come with being a trailblazer herself.
Sotomayor overcame considerable obstacles to become only the third woman to serve on the highest court in the U.S., following the late Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Sotomayor’s first book, 2013’s My Beloved World, tells the personal story behind her accomplishments. “I realized that people had an unreal image of me, that somehow I was a god on Mount Olympus,” she told TIME.
“I decided that if I were going to make use of my role as a Supreme Court justice, it would be to inspire people to realize that first, I was just like them, and second, if I could do it, so could they.”
She went to Princeton and Yale Law School.
Sotomayor earned scholarships to two prestigious Ivy League schools: Princeton for her undergraduate degree, and Yale Law for her juris doctorate. She’s been candid about the discrimination she encountered as one of the few Latinas on campus at the time. “Oh gosh, I was filled with fear,’’ she told Savannah Guthrie in 2013.
“When you come from a background like mine, where you’re entering worlds that are so different than your own, you have to be afraid.’’ At Princeton, where she graduated summa cum laude, Sotomayor chose to become an advocate for her fellow students as founder of the Latino Student Organization.
Nominated by President George H.W. Bush, she became a judge in 1991.
As an assistant district attorney in gritty 1979 Manhattan, her accomplishments included a major child pornography bust and helping to convict Richard Maddicks, aka the “Tarzan Murderer,” as a prosecutor. In 1984, she left the D.A.’s office to become a private practice lawyer, making partner at her firm by 1988.
At the recommendation of Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the George H.W. Bush administration nominated Sotomayor to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in November 1991, where she’d decide over 450 cases. In June 1997, President Bill Clinton nominated Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where she heard more than 3,000 cases and wrote about 380 majority opinions. She also taught law at New York University and Columbia Law School in 1998 and 1999, respectively.
“If confirmed, Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed for the Court in the past 70 years,” read a 2009 White House press release for her SCOTUS nomination.
President Obama nominated Sotomayor in May 2009.
President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor to the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, after Justice David H. Souter announced plans to retire. Despite opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA), and what Politico then described as Sotomayor’s “several previous comments about her gender and ethnicity” that Republican lawmakers feared would give her bias in rulings, Sotomayor was confirmed in a Senate hearing 68-31.
Sotomayor does not have children, and is divorced.
Sotomayor married her high school sweetheart, Kevin Noonan, upon graduating from Princeton. They amicably divorced after seven years in 1983. In an interview on Oprah’s Next Chapter, Sotomayor told Oprah that they married young, and she and her husband grew in “different directions.”
“I was completely consumed with work when I started as a D.A. in Manhattan, and I really wasn’t paying attention to him,” she said, adding that he told her, “One day I woke up realizing that no matter how hard I worked, I might not be as successful as you. And that led me to think, does she really need me?’” While she’s been happily single since, she told Savannah Guthrie that she feels an “occasional tug of regret” about not having kids.
“I knew that I wanted to be an independent woman with my own career and (be) successful in whatever I chose to do,’’ she said on TODAY. “Could I have that and have had children? Many women do. Can you have it all every minute of the day? No.”
While Sotomayor told Oprah she’d love to find the time to date as a justice, she is single and not currently linked to anyone.
Her judicial philosophy is “fidelity to the law.”
In remarks at her 2009 confirmation hearing, Sotomayor said her judicial philosophy “is simple: fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make the law—it is to apply the law.” She went on to say that her judicial record reflects a history of “interpreting statutes according to their terms and Congress’ intent; and hewing faithfully to precedents established by the Supreme Court and my Circuit Court.”
“I have always tried to approach the law as a learning process, as one of trying to understand how other people have approached particular questions,” Sotomayor said of her judicial philosophy in a 2015 conversation at the University of Notre Dame.
Sotomayor is considered one of the most liberal members of SCOTUS, as opposed to conservative, according to Ballotpedia. Though Sotomayor votes in New York, according to the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal, she is not enrolled in a political party as of 2020.
Sotomayor is “the judge who saved baseball.”
In one of her most notable rulings as a federal district court judge in New York, Sotomayor ended the 1994-1995 Major League Baseball strike by ruling on a players’ salary cap before opening day, restoring the previous labor agreements’ terms.
“Some say that Judge Sotomayor saved baseball,” Obama said at her 2009 nomination announcement. Sotomayor is an avowed baseball fan herself, and got to throw the first pitch at a Yankees game that same year—in her home turf, the Bronx.
She’s written four books.
In addition to her 2013 memoir, My Beloved World, Sotomayor has written three books for children: The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor, Turning Pages: My Life Story, and Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. All four were published in both English and Spanish.
Sotomayor told NPR that she was inspired to write 2019’s Just Ask!, about 12 kids with different abilities planting a garden together, because of her own experiences living with Type 1 diabetes. “I want every child to understand that whatever condition they bear in life, they are special in a good way,” she said.
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