Sotomayor’s Way With Words

By Michelle Chen Jan 10, 2010

The January 11 issue of the New Yorker features a long article on Justice Sonia Sotomayor, parsing her roots in a working-class Bronx neighborhood, her early activism in the Puerto Rican community as a student, and the political waltz leading up to her appointment to the "Number Nine" seat. Sotomayor is depicted as an even-handed, diligent jurist, not a leftist idealogue as some may have hoped or feared: her decisions reveal a bookish pragmatist with a technocratic streak, and even conservative on some issues. Primarily, she comes across as a straight talker, and when the voice of this ordinarily reticent woman shines through, you see how the label "wise Latina" might make perfect sense. A key exchange from her tense nomination process:

Not every senator was charmed by Sotomayor. The day she broke her ankle, she kept an appointment with Senator David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana. Vitter, Sotomayor later told a friend, was unwelcoming. As they were finishing their meeting, Vitter said, “I want to ask you—do you think if I was you, and I had made the wise-Latina comment that you made, that I would have deserved to be a Supreme Court Justice?” Sotomayor replied, “If you had my record, yes.”

Enough said. image: The New Yorker