Since joining the Supreme Court as its first Hispanic justice, Justice Sonia Sotomayor's incisive opinions have challenged the court to protect the underrepresented. With her on the bench, we know the social justice movement is in good hands.
In honor of today's five-year anniversary of her swearing-in ceremony, we’re taking a look back at Sonia Sotomayor’s most powerful statements – so far.
1. To the lawyer defending Prop 8 - California’s same-sex marriage ban - in an appeals case:
“Can you think of any other rational basis, reason, for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits? Or imposing burdens on them? Is there any other decision-making that the government could make -- denying them a job, not granting them benefits of some sort, any other decision?”
The lawyer’s reponse?
“Your Honor, I cannot…I, I do not have, uh, uh, any, uh, anything to offer you in that regard.”
2. In her dissent when the Court declined to hear a case in which an expert witness testified (and had done so in a number of cases) that Black offenders are more likely to pose a continued threat:
“In each case, as in Buck’s, however, the salient fact was that the prosecution invited the jury to consider race as a factor in sentencing. And in each case, the defendant was sentenced to death.”
3. To Abby the Muppet, in an appearance on Sesame Street:
“Abby, pretending to be a princess is fun, but it’s definitely not a career. Remember, a career is a job that you train and prepare for and that you plan to do for a long time.”
4. On the role of affirmative action in her own life, in her book My Beloved World:
“I had no need to apologize that the look-wider, search-more affirmative action that Princeton and Yale practiced had opened doors for me. That was its purpose: to create the conditions whereby students from disadvantaged backgrounds could be brought to the starting line of a race many were unaware was even being run.”
(Sotomayor wrote a searing dissent in the court’s 6-2 decision upholding Michigan’s ban on affirmative action.)
5. In her lone dissent in United States vs. Jicarilla Apache Nation, where the Court held that the United States government can withhold documents related to management of trust funds held on behalf of tribes:
“The sad and well-documented truth, however, is that the Government has failed to live up to its fiduciary obligations in managing Indian trust fund accounts.”