Background on Judge Sonia Sotomayor

  • An American Story

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    Judge Sonia Sotomayor has lived the American dream.

    Profile Picture of Narrator in Background on Judge Sonia Sotomayor
  • Born to a Puerto Rican family, she grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx.

  • Her parents moved to New York during World War II – her mother served in the Women’s Auxiliary Corps during the war.

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    Her father, a factory worker with a third-grade education, died when Sotomayor was nine years old.

    Profile Picture of Narrator in Background on Judge Sonia Sotomayor
  • Her mother, a nurse, then raised Sotomayor and her younger brother, Juan, now a physician in Syracuse.

  • After her father’s death, Sotomayor turned to books for solace, and it was her new found love of Nancy Drew that inspired a love of reading and learning, a path that ultimately led her to the law.

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    Most importantly, at an early age, her mother instilled in Sotomayor and her brother a belief in the power of education.

    Profile Picture of Narrator in Background on Judge Sonia Sotomayor
  • Driven by an indefatigable work ethic, and rising to the challenge of managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes, Sotomayor excelled in school.

  • Sotomayor graduated as valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York.

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    She first heard about the Ivy League from her high school debate coach, Ken Moy, who attended Princeton University, and she soon followed in his footsteps after winning a scholarship.

    Profile Picture of Narrator in Background on Judge Sonia Sotomayor
  • At Princeton, she continued to excel, graduating summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa.

  • She was a co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate.

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    At Yale Law School, Judge Sotomayor served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal and as managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order.

    Profile Picture of Narrator in Background on Judge Sonia Sotomayor
  • One of Sotomayor’s former Yale Law School classmates, Robert Klonoff (now Dean of Lewis & Clark Law School), remembers her intellectual toughness from law school:

  • Profile Picture of Robert Klonoff in Background on Judge Sonia Sotomayor

    Robert Klonoff

    “She would stand up for herself and not be intimidated by anyone.”

  • [Washington Post, 5/7/09]

  • A Champion of the Law

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    Over a distinguished career that spans three decades, Judge Sotomayor has worked at almost every level of our judicial system – yielding a depth of experience and a breadth of perspectives that will be invaluable – and is currently not represented -- on our highest court.

    Profile Picture of Narrator in Background on Judge Sonia Sotomayor
  • New York City District Attorney Morgenthau recently praised Sotomayor as an