Today’s blog is a continuation of yesterday’s… I had the chance to meet Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and hear her speak at the Fox Theater. These are a few of the messages I took away with me.
One of the questions asked was from a Santa Clara University School of Law student, which was basically, if you don’t go to an Ivy League law school, what can you do to best position yourself for a successful career as a lawyer after you graduate from law school? Having graduated in 1992, which was during a crazy recession and many, many law school graduates couldn’t find “lawyer” jobs (much like now), I can completely relate to this question. Sotomayor suggested that law students volunteer for as many of the justice related activities they can in law school, like the free legal clinic, to get a view into the work that needs to be and can be done by a young lawyer. She suggested writing an article (and getting it published) about a topic of interest and sharing it with prospective employers. Basically she said to be creative and network. If you read more about her, you’ll see that’s exactly what she did, even though she did graduate from an Ivy League school.
Belva Davis was the person who interviewed Justice Sotomayor. She asked some tough questions and one of the toughest questions was – has anything ever shaken your faith in our justice system. Sotomayor took quite awhile to answer this question (in fact it may have been one of the questions she said no one had ever asked her before). She took a long time to say that she has faith in the justice system because it is a process. While no one is ever happy being on the losing end of the case, there is a structure and process to justice in our country and THAT justice can be trusted and relied upon. Our justice system is a system that, for the most part, works; it is a system where we get things right most of the time. She hasn’t ever had an instance that shook her faith in the justice system to the breaking point.
Sotomayor takes her job very seriously and she said being on the Supreme Court is much harder than being on a District or Appellate court. She said it’s much harder because at the lower court levels she wasn’t the final arbiter, someone above her could always overturn her decision if she got it wrong. (BTW – Her turnover rate isn’t any different than that of other judges). She said she doesn’t have an agenda or any particular opinion that she wants to publish or issue to tackle (because, of course, that would be legislating from the bench, wouldn’t it), but that she wants to be seen as fair. She wants to make her reasoning understood, even if the parties don’t agree with it. Her whole discussion on this topic has inspired me to read a few of her dissenting opinions.
After the speech was over (which flew by), the entire audience had the chance to go up on stage and meet Justice Sotomayor, in an orderly and calm fashion with US Marshall’s keeping the peace. The crew that organized this event was spectacular and did a fine job corralling everyone into an orderly line to meet the Justice. She was much smaller than I thought and I got to shake her hand and say thank you in person. My friend Grace gave her one of her signed books, Latinnovating, which one of the US Marshall’s took for safe keeping. We got to take pictures behind another barrier and then we were hustled off the stage to look on from below (That’ s me, the blurry blob, on the far right, with Grace in the middle, and Justice Sotomayor on the left at the table.
It was an amazing evening and the fact that I remember so much of what she said speaks to how memorable she made her points and stories. She reminds me of two other amazingly charismatic and captivating speakers I have seen in my life, Colin Powell speaking to the ABA convention many moons ago when the meeting was in San Francisco and Glenn Seaborg’s Chem 1 lecture when I was an incoming freshman at Cal. She was that good! If you have a chance to see her speak, make the effort to get there like one woman who drove 9 hours from Portland to be there Monday night!
Check our Part 1 for more information on the night!
Check out Part 3 for my favorite points of the night!
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- Meeting a Supreme Court Justice - PractiGal on Meeting a Supreme Court Justice – Part 2
- Meeting a Supreme Court Justice - Part 2 - PractiGal on Meeting a Supreme Court Justice – Part 3
- Meeting a Supreme Court Justice - Part 3 - PractiGal on Meeting a Supreme Court Justice – Part 2
- Meeting a Supreme Court Justice - Part 3 - PractiGal on Meeting a Supreme Court Justice
- Meeting a Supreme Court Justice - Part 2 - PractiGal on Meeting a Supreme Court Justice