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Sotomayor unleashed | Hunter of Justice

Sotomayor unleashed

by on November 12, 2009  •  In Judiciary, Supreme Court

The current issue of Latina magazine contains a feature on the personal side of Justice Sotomayor, written by a good friend, Sandra Guzman. The magazine has posted excerpts on its web page, including the following:

One evening this past spring, as we prepared dinner for a group of friends, I asked her for some advice. She listened closely as I relayed my marital problems. I still recall her words, which I carry in my heart to this day. She told me that we have been wrongfully taught the Cinderella fairy tale as a paradigm of what happy relationships are supposed to be. And when we fall short of that, we suffer for it. To find happiness in love, she said, we have to make up our own rules. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. The process may involve unlearning what we have been taught and then figuring out what makes us happy. There are all types of relationships and arrangements to choose from. Of course, the trick is finding a companion who shares those values.

Love is not the only area where Justice Sotomayor has faced her fears and worked her way through them. Even as recently as April, she had doubts about her potential rise to the Supreme Court. She had been on President Clinton’s Supreme Court short list, but no seats became vacant. When Obama won the White House, the legal world hedged their bets on the brilliant judge with the impeccable résumé. But weeks before Obama made public his pick to replace Souter, Sotomayor called her confidante and good friend [NY attorney Lee] Llambelis, telling her that she wanted to pull her name from consideration.

“You have to understand that Sonia is a very private person,” Llambelis explains. “She didn’t want to go through another public vetting process and a potential public dressing-down by those on the Republican right who opposed her nomination. Sonia was happy being a Federal Appeals judge, loved her life in New York and felt fulfilled. She worried about having less time to spend with her mother, family and friends, particularly given her mom’s age and potential health complications.” Llambelis recalls listening to her friend, whose “I can” mantra was being drowned out by last-minute uncertainty. She told her to think beyond herself. “At this point, this is not about you,” Llambelis said to her. “It’s about little girls and boys, brown and black, who live in the projects and in poor communities around our nation, who can dream bigger if you are in the Supreme Court. You cannot back down now.” Sotomayor promised to think about it overnight. And in the morning, she woke up with a lighter heart and a bigger purpose.

1111sonia_article-1 In her short tenure so far on the court, the justice we have witnessed is no shrinking violet. She asks tough questions and is not intimidated by her rookie status. Sotomayor’s charm and confidence surprise very few people who know her, including the man who nominated her. While President Obama’s staff was preparing Sotomayor for the confirmation hearings in a White House office called the War Room, the team covered all the potentially explosive questions and briefed her on every minute detail, including how to dress for the cameras. They even advised her to keep her nails a neutral shade, which she did. But on the day of the White House reception celebrating her appointment, Sotomayor asked the president to look at her freshly manicured nails, holding up her hands to show off her favorite fire engine–red hue. The president chuckled, saying that she had been warned against that color.

She sure had, but Sotomayor was not finished. She then pulled her hair back behind her ears, exposing her red and black semi-hoop earrings, a beloved accessory among Latinas across America—from the South Bronx to Houston to East Los Angeles.

Obama joked that she had been briefed on the size of the earrings as well. Without skipping a beat, Sotomayor replied: “Mr. President, you have no idea what you’ve unleashed.” He responded, “Justice: I know and remember it’s a lifetime appointment. And I and no one can take it back.” And that, as they say, is the final verdict.

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