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Celebrating Women's History Month: Sonia Sotomayor

Associate justice Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, where she served from 1992–1998 as its youngest judge at the time. 

Sotomayor then served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998–2009. Her career as a judge came to a head when President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009.

"When I was nominated by the president for this position, it became very clear to me that many people in the public were interested in my life and the challenges I had faced,"Sotomayor told NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross in 2014. "... And I also realized that much of the public perception of who I was and what had happened to me was not quite complete."

Her journey from a Bronx housing project to the United States Supreme Court has been chronicled by many, including herself in her bestselling memoir, “My Beloved World,” in which she recounts growing up poor; living with juvenile diabetes; being raised by a single mother after her father, who was an alcoholic, died; and struggling to get a good education in spite of the odds. In 1976 she earned her B.A. from Princeton University, and in 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.

Sotomayor first became interested in the justice system after watching an episode of the television show Perry Mason. When a prosecutor on the program said he did not mind losing when a defendant turned out to be innocent, Sotomayor later said to The New York Times that she "made the quantum leap: If that was the prosecutor's job, then the guy who made the decision to dismiss the case was the judge. That was what I was going to be."

On the bench, Judge Sotomayor may be a careful deliberator, but off it she has been a tireless advocate for Latinos, and her willingness to speak up about her own identity as a Latina and a woman has earned her our respect as a woman to learn from this Women’s History Month.

“My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar,” she told the New York Times. “I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”

Learn more about Sonia Sotomayor

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