Sonia Sotomayor

By in Leadership, Political Leaders


“The pressure to succeed was relentless”. 


                                                                                                       – Sonia Sotomayor


Sonia spoke this quote when she was studying, at Princeton, for her undergraduate degree before she would head to Law school. She felt that she wanted to accomplish so much in this intense and difficult life but she knew she would never give up on herself, because knew what she wanted in life was so much beyond Princeton and Yale. She also felt that throughout her life in school the pressure the students, at Princeton and Yale, placed on themselves would never end until the day they were walking down the aisle towards their diploma and their new successful lives in law. Sonia is an inspiration to myself and many others, she makes me want to work as hard as she did. She makes everything possible despite the hardships that come along, she truly lives out the quote “anything is possible”. 






Sonia Sotomayor has done many things that have impacted our country in such positive ways. She is known for being the first Latina in the Supreme Court. Besides doing that she has helped to do so many great things for the people of this country. Sonia’s parents were both born in Puerto Rico and later traveled to America to begin their long term “American Dream”. Sonia has been separated from most of her working class due to the fact that she grew up in poverty and did not receive the help and support that her co-workers received. Most of Sonia’s classmates, throughout law school, came from families of wealth and were given great opportunities, unlike Sonia. Throughout her years in school as a young girl she exemplified hard work and a drive to succeed while pursuing her American Dream. Sonia is an inspiration to many people especially those growing up in the conditions in which Sonia grew up in, harsh housing projects.




Sonia Sotomayor has made her mark on the United States in such a positive way. From living in the Projects in the South Bronx, dealing with all of the struggles as a young girl to the life that she lives today in the supreme court. She has moved around and served as  judge on just about every level possible and for that she is recognized and honored. 

She was born on June 25th, 1954 in a housing project in the south bronx. Her mother Ceilina was a nurse and her Father Juli suffered from alcoholism but also managed to cook and clean for his family when needed. Her father passed away when she was 9 years old and from that day forward Sonia took a huge step and helped her mother take care of the house. She quickly gained leadership skills from going grocery shopping for her mother while helping to keep the house neat and presentable. She learned how to give herself insulin shots when she was diagnosed with diabetes because her parents were incapable of doing so. Sonia’s parents fought a lot due to the difficult conditions in which their family lived in. She read lots of books to keep herself sane from the fighting and through reading so much her love for law grew very strong at such a young age. She decided she wanted o study law at a young age and decided to pursue her dream even though she knew the brutalities that were ahead of her with school. She knew the difficulties of going to school with primarily speaking spanish and also knew what she had to do to fix it. She learned how to speak and write in English to best of her abilities before starting school. She went to Cardinal Spellman high school and graduated the valedictorian and later went to Princeton University on a very high scholarship. She graduated from Princeton in 1976 after receiving the Pyne Price, the highest academic award given to an undergraduate. After Princeton she went on to study law at Yale Law School. 


Accomplishments of Sotomayor


Career in law


Sotomayor began her career small and she grew quickly as she excelled throughout the many positions of the courts. She began at a firm called Pavia and Harcourt in New York. She began a private practice in 1984 partnering with Pavia and Harcourt and later in 1988 she moved from associate to partner. She quickly and successfully climbed the ladder at the law firm and became very well recognized and respected. At the same time she was serving on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she served as a policy member for them for twelve years. She also was on the board of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, and State of New York Mortgage Agency where she helped people in housing projects succeed in the world. She was noticed for her hard work and dedication in 1992 when Senator Edward M. Kennedy appointed her U.S. District Court Judge for New York City. She then excelled even higher and in 1998 President William Clinton elevated her to the Second Circuit, the most challenging circuit. She served on the court of appeals, second circuit, for eleven years. 

While she was still working on the court of appeals she began to teach a law class at New York University in 1998 and then branched out to teach at Columbia University in 1999.

On May 26, 2009 President Barak Obama announced his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor into the Supreme Court Justice. 



First case assigned to Sonia


                                                         Reverse Discrimination in New Haven, Connecticut 


Sonia Sotomayor’s first popular case as a supreme court judge was a case based on reverse discrimination. Reverse Discrimination is whites being the ones being treated unfairly. In New Haven, Connecticut in 2003 twenty firefighters fought the city when they realized that the results of their 2003 promotion exam had been thrown away due to the lack of diversity in race that were eligible for promotion. Within the twenty firefighters who took the promotion test on fourteen were promoted. Within that fourteen there was only one hispanic and the rest were white men. The City felt the need to get rid of these results because of the fear that they would receive people complaining of racism against blacks and hispanics. The minorities not promoted went to the city accusing them of failing to protect Civil Rights Law, Title VII, which bans promotion tests if it discriminates against gender or race. The men accused the city of wronging them and then sued. The other men who were rightly promoted fought for their rights and the case was brought to the Supreme Court in 2009 when Justice Sonia Sotomayor took over the case. She supported the city with allowing promotions to the fourteen of the twenty men eligible. This case made it the Second Circuit Supreme Court, which is a very demanding circuit, in fact the most demanding. Sotomayor found that the mens civil rights were violated strongly. 

This case was a perfect example of many overlapping anti-discrimination involving race as well as the way judges will handle attacks on racial disputes when they are reversed (whites are being discriminated).  It shows the diversity of this country and how issues go both way, and shows that there are instances where whites are cruelly discriminated as well. 

When Sonia Sotomayor received the case she accused them of violating these mens Civil Rights. She protected the fourteen men being punished for their intelligence and handwork. It was a 5-4 vote in the Court.  They all, rightfully, received promotions to lieutenant or captain.

This case showed that even though Sonia Sotomayor was a Latina, who strived in the field of law to help minorities receive equal treatment from the Country she will always run a fair trial and will support the right party in her best efforts to strive for equality in all races across the country. 



Sotomayor Latina Magazine

Sonia Sotomayor on the cover of the Spanish Magazine, Latina, in 2009


Nomination to the United States Supreme Court


Sotomayor was nominated onto the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009. Obama says ” Sotomayor is an inspiring woman who I believe will make a great justice” at a White House convention the night before his nomination of Sotomayor onto the Supreme Court. Sotomayor was the first Hispanic to be nominated for the U.S Supreme Court, and for that she is greatly praised and respected. She worked hard to get to where she is and she has been recognized for her hard work and dedication with bringing justice to our Country. Obama also said “Sotomayor will bring more experience on the bench than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court”. The president as well as the entire country are entirly impressed with Sotomayor’s motivation to excel and her drive to make this an equal and fair country, therefore her seat on the Court is well deserved. When looking for a nominee they look for intelligence, integrity, commitment to the law of the United States and and independent thinker. Sotomayor displays all of these skills in the best ways possible and has been putting her skills to amazing work over the past five years on the Court. 

Sotomayor is said to be tough and hard to get through to, but she is strictly searching for justice for all people. She never leaves behind anything. She analyzes the entire case and listens to every persons input as well as their sides of the story. Her job is to seek justice in the right ways as well as the fair way. She doesn’t judge a book by its cover, she always reaches inside to a person to see what is actually going on, that is why she is on the Supreme Court. It takes a very confident judge to be on the Supreme court with all of the life changing cases that come through for them to settle. Sotomayor has done a fabulous job on the court and will forever be a recognizable woman who strived for what she wanted and worked endlessly. 



Sotomayor w Biden and O UND three_stooges

President Obama announcing his nominee for the Supreme Court in 2009. 




                                                                      President Obama and Justice Sotomayor together after the nomination

                                                                          of her into the supreme court.




On the cover of Time Magazine in 2009, after the nomination onto the Supreme Court. 



                                                  Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 10.19.57 PM

                                                    Receiving the Katharine Hepburn Medal in September 2014 for her

                                                         commitment to Justice.


                                      Criticisms & Leadership Lesson


Sonia Sotomayor is an extremely confident woman with many thoughts and opinions on every situation. People have been criticizing Sotomayor for years on her harshness in court. They say that she is too hard on the people in court as well as sometimes too “brutally honest”. They also say that she demands more than she should from some people in the court and her way of acting on what she wants is too rude. At the level in which Sotomayor serves the decisions that she makes are life changing no matter which way you look at it. It can end someones life, but it can also bring better days to others while seeking justice. 

“She grew up in a situation of disadvantage, and was able, by virtue of the system operating in such a fair way, to accomplish what she did. I think she sees the law as an instrument that can accomplish the same thing for other people, a system that, if administered fairly, can give everyone the fair break they deserve, regardless of who they are.” one colleague said of her. So while many people agree with her way of a fair and clean trial there are also others that believe she could be a little “easier” on some people. 

While many people think that her harsh opinions and actions in court can be brutal for some people and some cases, I believe that this is the reason why Sotomayor made it to where she is today. A woman with confident and a Woman who is willing to stand up for what she believes in and speak her truthful opinion is a strong willed and successful person. If it weren’t for her brutality against some criminals then this country would not see all of the justice it has been lucky enough to see in the past five years.



                                                      About the Author


Maggie Slocomb is a freshman at Wagner College, class of 2018. Throughout high school she participated in community service projects where she helped under privilege kids deal with the hardships of living in poverty and less fortune. She helped them by making meals for them and supporting them through their troubles as well as listening to their problems. She would go to an aftercare program where she would help them with their homework and motivate them the importance of staying in school and succeeding instead of turning to crimes and unlawful ways of staying alive. She also volunteered on holidays at nursing homes around Delaware where she cooked and cleaned for the people living their as well as making their holiday feel real and alive. This past year her grandmother, who she was extremely close to, became ill and was placed in a nursing home in the last couple months of her life. She realized the difficulty in watching someone you love so dearly not be able to be with family during the holidays so she has decided to spend a couple hours, on the different holidays, with the nursing home who took such wonderful care of her grandmother in her last days. While working at the nursing home she met some very interesting people with all different backgrounds, and she fell in love with the differences they portrayed. She learned in her time spent with them that everyone is equally as important and special.  She has much experience dealing with different people in all aspects of life and also with seeing beyond the differences of people and treating every person equally. 




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