Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor

: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Steve Petteway source


* Former Board of Directors member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund
* Former judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
* Was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as a federal Appeals Court judge in 1997
* Strongly supports affirmative action
* Views America as a nation rife with discrimination against nonwhite minorities
* Was named to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama in 2009

Anti-White, Anti-American Influences on Sotomayor at Princeton

Born on June 25, 1954 to Puerto Rican parents who resided in the Bronx, New York, Sonia Sotomayor earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University in 1976. During her years at Princeton, she became involved with two campus organizations whose efforts were devoted chiefly to the celebration of nonwhite ethnic identities. These were: (a) Acción Puertorriqueña (AP), which Sotomayor founded and co-chaired, and which sponsored cultural events as well as student-led activism; and (b) the Third World Center (TWC), whose mission was to “provide a centralized area in which close examination can be given to the political, cultural, and social movements of the minority groups in the United States.”

Some additional noteworthy facts about TWC:

  • The organization aimed to: help remedy the fact that “the University’s cultural and social organizations have largely been shaped by students from families nurtured in the Anglo-American and European traditions”; highlight the fact that “it has not always been easy for students from different backgrounds to enter the mainstream of campus life”; and teach minority students to “become more sensitive to the consequences of a long history of prejudice and discrimination.”
  • TWC’s constitution and founding documents were steeped in anti-American and anti-white rhetoric. A 1976 TWC document titled “Oppression Breeds Resistance,” stated: “The history of the peoples of the Third World, who have suffered from U.S. Imperialism, and of the oppressed nationalities within the United States—Afro-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Asians, and Native Americans, has been a history of oppression and resistance.”
  • On one occasion in 1973, TWC brought Manuel Maldonado-Denis, a Puerto Rican Nationalist and Socialist, to campus as a guest speaker. “I have come from a colonized country, submitted to cultural assimilation and cultural aggression,” he told the students at TWC. He accused the United States of “dominating,” “fleecing,” and “exploiting” Puerto Rico, and said that “the only solution” to the problem was “the establishment of national liberation and the establishment of socialism.”
  • Years later, in 1984, TWC’s board maintained that the organization should have the right to bar whites from its meetings on campus and from its meetings with school administrators. At that time, future First Lady Michelle Obama was a member of the TWC board.
  • TWC’s 1984 constitution stated: “We define the term ‘Third World’ as those nations and people who have fallen victim to the oppression and exploitation of the world economic order. This definition includes the peoples of color in the United States, as they too are victims of a brutal and racist socio-economic structure perpetuated by those who still exploit such groups as Asians, Blacks, and Latinos and who still occupy the homelands of the Puerto Rican, Mexican, Native American, and Alaskan peoples. Therefore, we must seek to understand the historical and contemporary ramifications of oppression we are to liberate ourselves from economic and social chains which bind us.”

Acción Puertorriqueña and the Third World Center, Sotomayor would later recall in a 2002 interview, “provided me with an anchor I needed to ground myself in that new and different world.”

Demanding That Princeton Recruit More Latinos

During Sotomayor’s years at Princeton, she filed a complaint with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare’s New York office demanding that the university increase its recruitment of Latino administrators, faculty, and students. She also delivered to Princeton’s president two letters demanding explicit quotas and timetables for such recruitment.

In the May 10, 1974 edition of Princeton’s student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, Sotomayor wrote that “the Puerto Rican and Chicano students of Princeton” had recently “filed a complaint with HEW charging the university with an institutional pattern of discrimination.” She added:

“The facts of the complaint are these: 1) There is not one Puerto Rican or Chicano administrator or faculty member in the university; 2) There are two million Puerto Ricans in the United States and two and a half million more on the island itself. Yet there were only 66 Puerto Rican applicants this year, and only 31 Puerto Rican students on campus. While there are 12 million Chicanos in the United States, there were only 111 Chicano applicants and 27 students on campus this year; 3) Not one permanent course in this university now deals in any notable detail with the Puerto Rican or Chicano cultures….

“The lack of commitment on the part of the university to the Puerto Rican or Chicano heritage seems self-evident from these facts. Yet statistical evidence is not the total concern or complaint of the Puerto Rican or Chicano students — what is terrifying to us are the implications. The facts imply and reflect the total absence of regard, concern and respect for an entire people and their culture. In effect, they reflect an attempt — a successful attempt so far — to relegate an important cultural sector of the population to oblivion….

“It has been said that the universities of America are the vanguard of societal ideas and changes. Princeton University claims to foster the intellectual diversity, spirit, and thoughts that are necessary components in order to achieve this ideal. Yet words are transitory; it is the practice of the ideas you espouse that affect society and are permanent. Thus it is only when Princeton fulfills the goal of being a truly representative community that it can attempt to instill in society a respect for all people — regardless of race, color, sex or national origin.”

Quoting the Socialist Norman Thomas in Her Princeton Yearbook

In her 1976 Princeton yearbook, Sotomayor selected, as her special quotation, the following statement of Norman Thomas, who ran for U.S. president six times on the Socialist Party ticket: “I am not a champion of lost causes, but of causes not yet won.”

Yale Law School & the Launch of Her Legal Career

After graduating from Princeton, Sotomayor earned a Juris Doctor at Yale Law School in 1979. She then took a job as an Assistant District Attorney under New York County DA Robert Morgenthau.

Identity Politics & a Victim Mentality

On both a personal and professional level, Sotomayor has long placed a great emphasis on ethnic identity, and on the presumed victim status of nonwhite minorities. In a 2002 interview, she gave voice to this worldview:

  • “I have … taken solace and comfort and received continued support from keeping myself anchored in my Latina heritage. Despite working and succeeding in non-Latino environments … I have remained connected to and integrally involved in community activities — Latino and non-Latino groups devoted to serving the underprivileged of our society.”
  • “Growing up, all of my family, except those that remained in Puerto Rico, lived in the Bronx within miles of each other. From technological advances, our children will have more opportunities to enjoy, but it will be harder for them to hold on to their ethnic identities. But hold on to them we must …”
  • “In this time of great debate, we must remember that it is not politics or its struggles that creates a Latino or Latina identity. I became a Latina by the way I love and the way I live my life. My family showed me by their example how wonderful and vibrant life is and how wonderful and magical it is to have a Latina soul.”

Also in the 2002 interview, Sotomayor lamented the psychological and economic obstacles that, in her view, continued to plague Latinos in the United States:

  • “The differences from the larger society and the problems I faced as a Latina woman didn’t disappear when I left Princeton. I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my various professional jobs, not feeling completely a part of any of the worlds I inhabit.”
  • “I do not live in the Latina world of my youth. Instead, I have a lovely apartment in a yuppie neighborhood of Manhattan. I have worked in job environments that have been challenging, stimulating, and engrossing, but none of them are controlled by Latinos. As accomplished as I have been in my professional settings, I am always looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up and am always concerned that I have to work harder to succeed.”
  • “This is the pathology of successful Latinos and other successful individuals who come from economically deprived populations. It is hard to enjoy your success and wear it comfortably when the world we have grown up in is filled with friends and sometimes relatives who don’t make it in our society at all.”
  • “Latinos and all minority and women’s groups … face enormous challenges in this society. Affirmative action, human rights, and civil liberties permeate our societal discussions.”

Board Member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund

In 1980 Sotomayor became a Board of Directors member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (currently known as LatinoJustice PRLDF), a post she would hold for 12 years.

Opposing the Death Penalty

In 1981 Sotomayor was part of a three-person panel that urged PRLDF to oppose the reinstitution of the death penalty in New York State. “Capital punishment is associated with evident racism in our society,” the panel wrote. “It creates inhuman psychological burdens for the offender and his/her family.”

Joining a Commercial Litigation Firm

In 1984 Sotomayor left her job at the DA office and joined the commercial litigation firm of Pavia & Harcourt, where she became a partner in 1988. She remained with the firm until 1992.

U.S. District Court Judge, 1992-1997

In November 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated Sotomayor, on the recommendation of Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. She was confirmed by the Senate in August 1992 and would stay in that post until 1997.

In one of the more high-profile cases over which Sotomayor presided, she issued an order allowing the Wall Street Journal to publish the July 1993 suicide note of Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster.

In another much-publicized case, in March 1995 Sotomayor issued the preliminary injunction preventing Major League Baseball from unilaterally implementing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and using replacement players, thereby bringing the 1994 baseball strike to a close.

Lauding the Virtues of Affirmative Action

In the early 1990s, Sotomayor spoke publicly about the role that affirmative action had played in her educational background:

“I am a product of affirmative action. I am the perfect affirmative action baby. I am Puerto Rican, born and raised in the south Bronx, and from what is traditionally described as a socio-economically poor background. My test scores were not comparable to that of my colleagues at Princeton or Yale. Not so far off the mark that I wasn’t able to succeed at those institutions…. [I]f we had gone through the traditional numbers route of those institutions, it would have been highly questionable whether I would have been accepted with my academic achievement in high school. I was accepted rather readily at Princeton, and equally as fast at Yale. But my test scores were not comparable to that of my classmates, and that’s been shown by statistics, there are reasons for that. There are cultural biases built into testing, and that was one of the motivations for the concept of affirmative action, to try to balance out those effects.”

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge, 1998-2009

On June 25, 1997, Sotomayor was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She was eventually confirmed in October 1998 and held the seat until August 2009.

Teaching & Serving on a University Board of Trustees

From 1998 to 2007, Sotomayor was an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law. She also was a lecturer at Columbia Law School from 1999 to 2000. And she served a stint on Princeton University’s Board of Trustees.

Maternity Center Association Board Member

Sotomayor was formerly a Board of Directors member of the Maternity Center Association (now called Childbirth Connection), an organization that generally views maternity care as the financial responsibility of taxpayer-funded programs dedicated to “us[ing] research, education and advocacy to improve maternity care for all women and their families.”

Applying the ADA to Woman Whose “Handicap” Was an Inability to Read

In 1998 the Family Research Council named Sotomayor as the recipient of its Court Jester Award, mocking her decision to extend the application of the Americans With Disabilities Act to a woman who had cited her own inability to read as the “handicap” that caused her to fail the New York State bar exam several times.

Member of National Council of La Raza

From 1998-2004, Sotomayor was a member of the National Council of La Raza.

“Wise Latina”: In Praise of Identity Politics

In October 2001 Sotomayor gave a speech at UC Berkeley, during which she suggested, approvingly, that making the federal bench more “diverse”—in terms of ethnicity, race, gender, or sexual orientation—“will have an effect on the development of the law and on judging.” Refuting the notion that judges should not permit the foregoing personal traits to influence their legal decisions, she said: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences,” she elaborated, “our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging…. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see.” Questioning whether it is “possible in all, or even, in most, cases” for judges to be absolutely impartial, she pondered: “I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society.” She also expressed agreement with law professors who maintain that “to judge is an exercise of power,” and that “there is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives.” At another point in the speech, she lamented: “We [Latinos] have only 10 out of 147 active circuit court judges and 30 out of 587 active district court judges. Those numbers are grossly below our proportion of the population.”

According to a July 2009 Congressional Quarterly report:

“Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor delivered multiple speeches between 1994 and 2003 in which she suggested ‘a wise Latina woman’ or ‘wise woman’ judge might ‘reach a better conclusion’ than a male judge. Those speeches … suggest her widely quoted 2001 speech in which she indicated a ‘wise Latina’ judge might make a better decision was far from a single isolated instance.”

Ruling That a Firefighters’ Test Was Invalid Because Blacks Scored Lower, 2004 & 2008

One of the most noteworthy court cases over which Sotomayor has presided was a 2004 lawsuit filed by Frank Ricci, a white firefighter in New Haven, Connecticut, who, the previous year, had scored very well on the test which his local fire department administered in order to determine who should be promoted to such positions as lieutenant and captain. But when it was revealed that black firefighters, on average, had performed quite poorly on that test, the city of New Haven, reasoning that the exam itself must have been racially biased, mandated that the test results be discarded and that no promotions be granted that year to anyone. In response, Ricci and 17 fellow firefighters (16 whites and 1 Hispanic) filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit — which was argued before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit — contending that they had been wrongfully denied promotions they deserved. That panel, which included Sotomayor, upheld New Haven’s decision to dismiss the test results.

Four years later, all 13 members (including Sotomayor) of the same Appeals Court presided over a retrial of the Ricci case. They likewise agreed, this time by a 7-6 margin, that the firefighters’ test was invalid. Six of the seven judges to rule that way were, like Sotomayor, Bill Clinton appointees.

Advocating That Judges “Learn from Foreign Law … When Interpreting our Constitution”

Sotomayor penned the Foreword to the 2007 book, The International Judge, where she wrote that American judges should try to “learn from foreign law and the international community when interpreting our Constitution.” She also stressed the importance of having judges “learn from international courts and from their male and female judges about the process of judging and the factors outside of the law that influence our decisions.” According to the journal Foreign Policy, “Sotomayor sides with those who believe that foreign case law should at least be considered when applicable” to certain rulings.

Doe v. Mukasey  (First Amendment Case), 2008

In a 2008 case known as Doe v. Mukasey, Sotomayor ruled that FBI “national-security letters” asking electronic-communications service providers to furnish the Bureau with the records of a criminal or terrorist suspect, violated the First Amendment.

Maloney v. Cuomo (Second Amendment Case), 2009

In a January 2009 Second Circuit case known as Maloney v. Cuomo, Sotomayor wrote that states are not required to obey the Second Amendment’s mandate that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The opinion which she signed stated that “the Second Amendment … is a limitation only upon the power of Congress and the national government, and not upon that of the state.”

Legal Realism

In June 2009, the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) reported that Sotomayor is an advocate of Legal Realism, “a judicial philosophy that permits judges to ignore the U.S. Constitution and laws in their rulings,” and which is “diametrically opposed to the concept of strict construction/originalism as advocated by conservative legal thinkers and judges.” Added TVC:

“Legal Realism is a philosophy developed by Judge Jerome Frank in his 1930 book, Law And The Modern Mind. Frank taught that the law changes along with the circumstances and the concerns of the judges applying it. He argued that judges should do more than interpret the law or look to the original intent of the writers of the law or the Constitution. Judges should bring in outside influences from social sciences, psychology and politics, plus their own views, to craft the law….

“Judge Sotomayor drank deeply from his philosophy. She described Legal Realism in her 1996 lecture at Suffolk University Law School. She stated that the public wrongly expects ‘the law to be static and predictable,’ but points out that courts and lawyers are ‘constantly overhauling the laws and adapting it to the realities of ever-changing social, industrial and political conditions.’

“[In other words,] the law becomes whatever a liberal judge says it is. The Constitution becomes whatever a liberal says it is….

“Judge Robert Bork … [wrote that] the result of this philosophy is a ‘disdain for the original meaning of the Constitution.’

“According to Bork, the philosophy of Legal Realism, has greatly damaged the legal system. ‘The new theorists of constitutional law,’ [said Bork] … are [often] quite explicit about their intention to convert the Constitution from law to politics, and judges from magistrates to politicians.… The politics and the robed politicians, it need hardly be added, in nine cases out of ten are to be of the left-wing variety.'”

Advocating Judicial Activism

In May 2009 a video surfaced of Sotomayor speaking at a 2005 panel discussion for law students, where she said that a “court of appeals is where policy is made”—a candid rejection of the notion that a judge’s proper role is to interpret the law rather than to create it. Then, remembering that the event was being recorded, Sotomayor added immediately: “And I know — I know this is on tape, and I should never say that because we don’t make law. I know. O.K. I know. I’m not promoting it. I’m not advocating it. I’m — you know.”

Appointed to the Supreme Court, 2009

On May 26, 2009, a few weeks after Supreme Court Justice David Souter had announced that he would soon retire, President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor to replace Souter.

During her Senate confirmation hearings in July 2009, Sotomayor had the following exchange with Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma:

Coburn: As a citizen of this country, do you believe innately in my ability to have self-defense of myself? Personal self-defense? Do I have a right to personal self-defense?

Sotomayor: I’m trying to think if I remember a case where the Supreme Court has addressed that particular question. Is there a constitutional right to self-defense? And I can’t think of one. I could be wrong, but I can’t think of one.” She then went on to explain that self-defense rights are usually defined by state law. Generally, as I understand, most criminal law statutes are passed by states. I’m also trying to think if there is any federal law that includes a self-defense provision or not. I just can’t….

Coburn: But do you have an opinion, or can you give me your opinion, of whether or not in this country I personally, as an individual citizen, have a right to self-defense?

Sotomayor: As I said, I don’t know. I don’t know if that legal question has ever been presented.

Coburn: I wasn’t asking about the legal question. I’m asking about your personal opinion.

Sotomayor: But that is an abstract question with no particular meaning to me outside of —

Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 28, 2009; was confirmed by the full Senate (by a 68-31 vote, with 9 Republicans voting in favor) on August 6, 2009; and was sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on August 8, 2009.

The Citizens United Case, 2010

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, issued a 5-4 ruling that overturned two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the portion of McCain-Feingold that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions. Sotomayor voted with the minority in the 2010 case.

Claiming That “Racial Prejudice” Infests the Justice System, 2013

During cross-examination in a drug-conspiracy case in February 2013, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Ponder said: “You’ve got African-Americans, you’ve got Hispanics, you’ve got a bag full of money. Does that tell you — light bulb doesn’t go off in your head and say, This is a drug deal?” Sotomayor subsequently remarked that Ponder’s question had “tapped a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our nation,” adding that it was “pernicious in its attempt to substitute racial stereotype for evidence.”

“Undocumented Immigrants”

During a talk she gave at Yale Law School in February 2014, Sotomayor was asked about her use of the term “undocumented immigrants” to describe those who are sometimes called “illegal aliens.” Asserting that the labeling of some immigrants as criminals seemed insulting to her, Sotomayor said: “I think people then paint those individuals as something less than worthy human beings, and it changes the conversation.”

Dissenting in Decision That Banned Affirmative Action in Michigan, 2014

On April 22, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court — in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action — issued a 6-2 decision upholding a Michigan constitutional amendment banning affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities. Sotomayor, who along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg voted in the minority, wrote an impassioned 58-page dissent wherein she elected not to use the term “affirmative action” because of its connotation of “intentional preferential treatment”; rather, she called it a system of “race-sensitive admissions policies.” Some excerpts from Sotomayor’s dissent include the following:

“We are fortunate to live in a democratic society. But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups. For that reason, our Constitution places limits on what a majority of the people may do. This case implicates one such limit: the guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Although that guarantee is traditionally understood to prohibit intentional discrimination under existing laws, equal protection does not end there. Another fundamental strand of our equal protection jurisprudence focuses on process, securing to all citizens the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government. That right is the bedrock of our democracy, for it preserves all other rights.

“Yet to know the history of our Nation is to understand its long and lamentable record of stymieing the right of racial minorities to participate in the political process. […]

“My colleagues are of the view that we should leave race out of the picture entirely and let the voters sort it out. […]

“Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities’ being denied access to the political process. […]

“Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society—inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities. […]

“And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, ‘No, where are you really from?’, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’

“In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter. […]

“The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat. But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities. The political-process doctrine polices the channels of change to ensure that the majority, when it wins, does so without rigging the rules of the game to ensure its success. Today, the Court discards that doctrine without good reason.

“In doing so, it permits the decision of a majority of the voters in Michigan to strip Michigan’s elected university  boards of their authority to make decisions with respect to constitutionally permissible race-sensitive admissions policies, while preserving the boards’ plenary authority to make all other educational decisions. […]

“Today’s decision eviscerates an important strand of our equal protection jurisprudence. For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government.

“I respectfully dissent.”

Portraying the Criminal Justice System as Racist

In a July 4, 2016 New York Times piece, journalist Adam Liptak wrote the following about the eight dissents which Sotomayor had written during the most recent term in the Supreme Court: “Read together, they are a remarkable body of work from an increasingly skeptical student of the criminal justice system, one who has concluded that it is clouded by arrogance and machismo and warped by bad faith and racism.” Citing one of Sotomayor’s more significant dissents in particular, Liptak said:

“Nine days after Justice [Antonin] Scalia died in February 2016, on the day the eight remaining members of the Supreme Court first returned to the bench, Justice Sotomayor laid the groundwork for her most important dissent of the term. The question in the case, Utah v. Strieff, No. 14­1373, was whether prosecutors could use evidence obtained by the police after illegal stops. A lawyer for the state told the justices that the Constitution allowed this if there had been an outstanding arrest warrant for the person the officer happened to stop…. At the argument in February 2016, Justice Sotomayor asked the first six questions, ripping into the state’s lawyer with real ­world experience rooted in the Black Lives Matter movement. ‘What stops us,’ she asked, ‘from becoming a police state and just having the police stand on the corner down here and stop every person, ask them for identification, put it through, and, if a warrant comes up, searching them?’ A moment later, she answered her own question. ‘If you have a town like Ferguson, where 80 percent of the residents have minor traffic warrants out, there may be a very good incentive for just standing on the street corner in Ferguson and asking every citizen, Give me your ID, let me see your name.

“[In her subsequent dissent, in June 2016] she wrote: ‘This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong.’ ‘If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay,’ she continued, ‘courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant.’ In many communities, she said, the tactics the court endorsed will allow the police to search people almost at will. ‘It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny,’ she wrote. She cited precedents, naturally. But she also named major works on the African ­American experience: W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, and Ta-­Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me…. ‘For generations,’ she wrote in the Utah case, ‘black and brown parents have given their children the talk — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.”

Ruling on the Federal COVID-19 Vaccine-or-Test Mandate, 2021

On January 7, 2021, Sotomayor and the rest of the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, wherein the NFIB’s counsel challenged the Biden administration’s federal COVID-19 vaccine-or-weekly-test mandate for businesses that employed more than 100 workers. Sotomayor, for her part, objected when Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers, who argued on behalf of Republican-led states opposing the Biden mandate, claimed that: (a) the new Omicron variant of coronavirus seemed to be less severe than the prior variants, and (b) the COVID vaccines seemed to be less effective at stopping the transmission of Omicron. Specifically, Sotomayor stated that: (a) recent increases in COVID-related hospitalizations “show that Omicron is just as deadly for the unvaccinated,” and (b) “We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.” But as The Daily Wire noted, Sotomayor was completely wrong::

“[N]either her claims regarding Omicron nor her claims about the number of children in the hospital because of COVID-19 were based on recent facts. Numerous preliminary studies have indicated that Omicron, while more transmissible, is far less deadly than the Delta variant of COVID-19. Likewise, real-world data show that while the vaccine may reduce the severity of a COVID-19 case, it does not necessarily prevent transmission of the virus to other people. On [January 5], White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that ‘multiple sources of now-preliminary data indicate a decrease severity with Omicron.’ […]

“It should also be noted that Fauci had previously claimed that hospitals and the government were likely not differentiating children who were hospitalized ‘because’ of COVID-19 vs. children who were hospitalized ‘with’ COVID-19, but were primarily there for another reason — for example, a broken leg or arm. While hospitalizations amongst children with COVID-19 have increased in recent weeks, nothing suggests that more than 100,000 children are currently in the hospital due to COVID-19.  ‘As of [January 4], the average number of children and teens admitted to the hospital per day with COVID-19 was 766,’ The Associated Press reported on [January 7]. The AP also added that Fauci noted ‘many children hospitalized with COVID-19 have other health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from the virus. That includes obesity, diabetes and lung disease.’”

Dissenting in the Dobbs Case That Overturnrd Roe v. Wade, 2022

Along with Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, Sotomayor in 2022 was part of the three-Justice dissent in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where the Supreme Court ruled that the United States Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, and thereby overruled Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey. In their 60-page dissent, the three Justices wrote:

“For half a century, Roe v. Wade (1973), and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey (1992), have protected the liberty and equality of women. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that the Constitution safeguards a woman’s right to decide for herself whether to bear a child. Roe held, and Casey reaffirmed, that in the first stages of pregnancy, the government could not make that choice for women. The government could not control a woman’s body or the course of a woman’s life: It could not determine what the woman’s future would be. Respecting a woman as an autonomous being, and granting her full equality, meant giving her substantial choice over this most personal and most consequential of all life decisions.

Roe and Casey well understood the difficulty and divisiveness of the abortion issue. The Court knew that Americans hold profoundly different views about the ‘moral[ity]’ of ‘terminating a pregnancy, even in its earliest stage.’ And the Court recognized that ‘the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting’ the ‘life of the fetus that may become a child.’ So the Court struck a balance, as it often does when values and goals compete. It held that the State could prohibit abortions after fetal viability, so long as the ban contained exceptions to safeguard a woman’s life or health. It held that even before viability, the State could regulate the abortion procedure in multiple and meaningful ways. But until the viability line was crossed, the Court held, a State could not impose a ‘substantial obstacle’ on a woman’s ‘right to elect the procedure’ as she (not the government) thought proper, in light of all the circumstances and complexities of her own life.

“Today, the Court discards that balance. It says that from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of. A State can force her to bring a pregnancy to term, even at the steepest personal and familial costs. An abortion restriction, the majority holds, is permissible whenever rational, the lowest level of scrutiny known to the law. And because, as the Court has often stated, protecting fetal life is rational, States will feel free to enact all manner of restrictions. The Mississippi law at issue here bars abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. Under the majority’s ruling, though, another State’s law could do so after ten weeks, or five or three or one—or, again, from the moment of fertilization. States have already passed such laws, in anticipation of today’s ruling. More will follow. Some States have enacted laws extending to all forms of abortion procedure, including taking medication in one’s own home. They have passed laws without any exceptions for when the woman is the victim of rape or incest. Under those laws, a woman will have to bear her rapist’s child or a young girl her father’s—no matter if doing so will destroy her life. So too, after today’s ruling, some States may compel women to carry to term a fetus with severe physical anomalies—for example, one afflicted with Tay-Sachs disease, sure to die within a few years of birth. States may even argue that a prohibition on abortion need make no provision for protecting a woman from risk of death or physical harm. Across a vast array of circumstances, a State will be able to impose its moral choice on a woman and coerce her to give birth to a child. […]

“The majority tries to hide the geographically expansive effects of its holding. Today’s decision, the majority says, permits ‘each State’ to address abortion as it pleases. That is cold comfort, of course, for the poor woman who cannot get the money to fly to a distant State for a procedure. Above all others, women lacking financial resources will suffer from today’s decision. In any event, interstate restrictions will also soon be in the offing. After this decision, some States may block women from traveling out of State to obtain abortions, or even from receiving abortion medications from out of State. Some may criminalize efforts, including the provision of information or funding, to help women gain access to other States’ abortion services. Most threatening of all, no language in today’s decision stops the Federal Government from prohibiting abortions nationwide, once again from the moment of conception and without exceptions for rape or incest. […]

“Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens. Yesterday, the Constitution guaranteed that a woman confronted with an unplanned pregnancy could (within reasonable limits) make her own decision about whether to bear a child, with all the life-transforming consequences that act involves. And in thus safeguarding each woman’s reproductive freedom, the Constitution also protected ‘[t]he ability of women to participate equally in [this Nation’s] economic and social life.’ But no longer. As of today, this Court holds, a State can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions. […]

“The majority has no good reason for the upheaval in law and society it sets off. Roe and Casey have been the law of the land for decades, shaping women’s expectations of their choices when an unplanned pregnancy occurs. Women have relied on the availability of abortion both in structuring their relationships and in planning their lives…. Today, the proclivities of individuals rule. The Court departs from its obligation to faithfully and impartially apply the law. We dissent.”

Failing to Recuse Herself from Cases Involving the Publisher of Her Books

On May 3, 2023, the Daily Wire reported that in previous years, Sotomayor had “declined to recuse herself from multiple copyright infringement cases involving book publisher Penguin Random House despite having been paid millions [$3.6 million] by the firm for her books, making it by far her largest source of income.” Those payments consisted of: (a) a $1.2 million book advance in 2010 from Knopf Doubleday Group, which was a part of the Penguin Random House conglomerate; (b) $1.9 million in two advance payments from the publisher in 2012; and (c) more than $500,000 from Penguin Random House between 2017 and 2021.

Added The Daily Wire:

“In 2010, she got a $1.2 million book advance from Knopf Doubleday Group, a part of the [Penguin Random House] conglomerate. In 2012, she reported receiving two advance payments from the publisher totaling $1.9 million.

“In 2013, Sotomayor voted in a decision for whether the court should hear a case against the publisher called Aaron Greenspan v. Random House. Greenspan was a Harvard classmate of Mark Zuckerberg’s who wrote a book about the founding of Facebook and contended that Random House rejected his book proposal and then awarded a deal to another author who copied his book and eventually turned it into the movie The Social Network.

“In 2017, Sotomayor began receiving payments each year from Penguin Random House itself, which continued annually through at least 2021, the most recent disclosure available, and totaled more than $500,000. In all, she received $3.6 million from Penguin Random House or its subsidiaries, according to a Daily Wire tally of financial disclosures.

“In October 2019, children’s author Jennie Nicassio petitioned the Supreme Court to hear her lawsuit against Penguin Random House alleging that the book publisher had copied her book by selling one that was nearly identical. On the same day that the petition was distributed to the justices, Sotomayor received a $10,586 check from the publisher. On February 24, 2020, the Supreme Court voted not to hear the case, denying the ‘writ of certiorari’ and meaning that the case would remain where it left off — with a circuit court having found in the publisher’s favor. Sotomayor’s next check, coming in May of that year, was her largest ever from the parent company, at $82,807.”

Dissenting from Decision That Said Affirmative Action Is Unconstitutional, 2023

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court issued its decision regarding a pair of lawsuits that had been filed in 2014 against Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC) by Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) — a coalition of more than 20,000 prospective college students and their parents – to challenge the use of affirmative action (racial preferences) in the college admissions process. At issue, specifically, was whether: (a) Harvard University’s admissions office was discriminating against applicants of Asian heritage, who were not being admitted at rates commensurate with their academic qualifications, and (b) the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was giving preference in admissions to black, Hispanic, and Native American applicants over their white and Asian counterparts.

“Harvard’s and UNC’s admissions programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” the Supreme Court ruled on June 29. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, and he was joined in the verdict by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. “Many universities,” wrote Roberts, “have for too long … concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

Sotomayor dissented from the majority opinion along with Justices Katanji Brown Jackson and Elena Kagan. Some noteworthy excerpts from Sotomayor’s dissent included the following:

  • “The devastating impact of this decision cannot be overstated.”
  • “Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”
  • “The Court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society.”
  • “At its core, today’s decision exacerbates segregation and diminishes the inclusivity of our Nation’s institutions in service of superficial neutrality that promotes indifference to inequality and ignores the reality of race. ”
  • “Today, this Court overrules decades of precedent and imposes a superficial rule of race blindness on the Nation.”
  • “The majority’s vision of race neutrality will entrench racial segregation in higher education because racial inequality will persist so long as it is ignored.”
  • “Despite the Court’s unjustified exercise of power, the opinion today will serve only to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound.”

Dissenting from Decision That Creative Businesses Could Refuse Requests That Would Violate Their Moral Principles, 2023

On June 30, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled on 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a case that centered around the question of whether creative businesses had a right to refuse to serve LGBTQ+ customers because of a business owner’s First Amendment free-speech rights. In its 6-3 decision, the Court concluded that an evangelical Christian businesswoman had a right to post a notice that said, “no [wedding websites] will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages.” Sotomayor wrote the dissent in opposition to the majority opinion, and she was joined in the dissent by Justices Katanji Brown Jackson and Elena Kagan. Some excerpts from Sotomayor’s dissent included the following:

  • “Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.”
  • “The decision threatens to balkanize the market and to allow the exclusion of other groups from many services. A website designer could equally refuse to create a wedding website for an interracial couple, for example.”
  • “Around the country, there has been a backlash to the movement for liberty and equality for gender and sexual minorities. New forms of inclusion have been met with reactionary exclusion.”
  • “The law in question targets conduct, not speech, for regulation, and the act of discrimination has never constituted protected expression under the First Amendment.”
  • “When the civil rights and women’s rights movements [first] sought equality in public life, some public establishments refused. Some even claimed, based on sincere religious beliefs, constitutional rights to discriminate. The brave Justices who once sat on this Court decisively rejected those claims.”

Stating That Every Conservative Supreme Court Decision “Traumatizes” Her

Speaking to students at the UC Berkeley School of Law on January 29, 2024, Sotomayor stated that every conservative victory in the Supreme Court “traumatizes” her. “I live in frustration,” she said. “And as you heard, every loss truly traumatizes me in my stomach and in my heart. But I have to get up the next morning and keep on fighting.” “Change never happens on its own,” Sotomayor added. “Change happens because people care about moving the arc of the universe toward justice, and it can take time and it can take frustration.”

Additional Resources:

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