Of all the Supreme Court Justices, Sonia Sotomayor is arguably the most visible outside of the courtroom. Her journey from a Bronx housing project to the United States Supreme Court has been chronicled by many, including Sotomayor herself in her bestselling memoir, “My Beloved World.”
In spite of all that is known about Justice Sotomayor, judicial biographer and Reuters legal affairs editor Joan Biskupic believed there was more to discover. She discussed her new book, “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice,” with PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill. Here are a few lesser known facts she helped uncover.
1. She helped Ruth Bader Ginsburg cope with her husband’s death
In the opening pages of “Breaking In,” Biskupic describes how Sotomayor shook up tradition at her first end-of-term party by asking the other justices to salsa dance with her.
In what Biskupic describes as the “most compelling” moment of this episode, Sotomayor approached Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose husband had passed away just three days prior, and asked her to dance. When Ginsburg initially refused, Sotomayor leaned in and whispered to her, “Marty would have wanted you to dance,” referring to Ginsburg’s late husband. After joining her on the dance floor briefly, Ginsburg placed her hands on Sotomayor’s cheeks and simply said, “Thank you.”
2. She was born the same year as Brown vs. Board of Education
Sotomayor has described herself as “the perfect affirmative action baby.” In April, when the court upheld an amendment to the Michigan state constitution banning racial affirmative action, she issued a 58-page long dissent (over three times as long as the opinion upholding the law), which made clear that she believes it is the court’s role to defend the civil rights of “historically marginalized groups.” It is fitting that she was born shortly after this landmark ruling in favor of educational equality.
3. She poked fun at Chief Justice John Roberts
In a 2007 opinion, Chief Justice Roberts famously wrote: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” In her dissent in the Michigan ruling, Sotomayor turned Roberts’ words against him, writing: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race.”
“She clearly was playing off of his view in a kind of mocking way,” Biskupic says, “and in fact, Chief Justice Roberts criticized Justice Sotomayor for doing that…he said that she was expounding policy preferences, but then he also said that he did not like the airing of personal strains.”
Sotomayor’s jab at Roberts revealed a personal disagreement, but Biskupic insists the dissent as a whole was rooted in Sotomayor’s professional opinion. “Most of it was based on her legal reasoning and what she thought of precedent. So she weaves in sentiment from personal experience, but it is ..”
To read full article: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/8-things-didnt-know-supreme-court-justice-sonia-sotomayor/