Matéria enviada pelo Prof Farlei Martins
The New York Times
May 27, 2009
Woman in the News
‘Kid From the Bronx’ With Hopes and Doubts
By NEIL A. LEWIS
WASHINGTON — Sonia Sotomayor, who would be the Supreme Court’s first
Hispanic justice, brings to the confirmation experience the kind of rich
personal story that has always been deeply gratifying to Americans, the
journey from humble beginnings to a respected position of great influence.
As she was presented by President Obama at the White House on Tuesday
morning, she referred to herself as “a kid from the Bronx.” But it was Mr.
Obama who provided many details of her history as a child of a city housing
project who lost her father at an early age and saw her mother work two jobs
to put her and her brother through professional schools.
Mr. Obama said that he had wanted to select a person who had “a common touch
and a sense of compassion.”
He also noted the case which brought Judge Sotomayor her greatest acclaim
and fame, when in 1995 she ruled crisply against the baseball team owners
and in favor of the ballplayers, a decision that ended a lengthy strike and
The owners were trying to subvert the labor system, she said, and the strike
had “placed the entire concept of collective bargaining on trial.”
Judge Sotomayor, 54, grew up in the Bronxdale Houses, the child of parents
who moved to New York City from Puerto Rico during World War II.
Her father, who worked as a welder, died when she was 9, leaving her mother
to raise her and her brother. In speeches to Latino groups over the years,
Judge Sotomayor has spoken of how her mother worked six days a week as a
nurse to send her and her brother to Catholic school, purchased the only set
of encyclopedias in the neighborhood and kept a warm pot of rice and beans
on the stove every day for their friends.
The young Sonia loved Nancy Drew mysteries, she once recalled, and yearned
to be a police detective. But a doctor who diagnosed her childhood diabetes
suggested that would be difficult. She converted her literary adoration of
Nancy for an allegiance to television’s Perry Mason, she said, and decided
to become a lawyer.
She has described going to Princeton University, where she graduated summa
cum laude in 1976, as a life-changing experience. When she arrived on campus
from the Bronx, she said it was like “a visitor landing in an alien
country.” She never raised her hand in her first year there. “I was too
embarrassed and too intimidated to ask questions,” Judge Sotomayor once
In one speech, she sounded some themes similar to Mr. Obama’s description of
his social uncertainties as a biracial youth in a largely white society.
“I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my
various professional jobs, not feeling completely a part of the worlds I
inhabit,” she said, adding that despite her accomplishments, “I am always
looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up.”
She went to Yale Law School, worked for Robert M. Morgenthau in the
Manhattan district attorney’s office and spent time in private practice
before being named to the bench.
Although President Obama noted that she had first been nominated to the
district court in 1992 by the first President Bush, she was actually chosen
for the seat by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, who had an
arrangement with his Republican counterpart, Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, to
share district court judge selections in New York. President Bush did little
more than ratify the agreement.
In 1997, Republican senators held up her nomination by President Bill
Clinton to the appeals court for more than a year, foreseeing that as a
Hispanic appellate judge she would be a formidable candidate for the Supreme
On the Circuit Court, she has been involved in few controversial issues like
abortion. Some of her most notable decisions came in child custody and
complex business cases. Her most high-profile case involved New Haven’s
decision to toss out tests used to evaluate candidates for promotion in the
fire department because there were no minority candidates at the top of the
She was part of a panel that rejected the challenge brought by white
firefighters who scored high but were denied promotion. Frank Ricci, the
lead plaintiff, argued that it was unfair that he was denied promotion after
he had studied intensively for the exam and even paid for special coaching
to overcome his dyslexia. The three-judge opinion she joined noted that
despite ruling against him, the judges had sympathy for Mr. Ricci and noted
his extraordinary efforts to better himself. But the case produced a heated
split in the Circuit Court, with her onetime mentor, Judge Jose Cabranes,
sharply criticizing her view. The case is now before the Supreme Court and
may well be a target for Republican critics during the confirmation process.
Judge Sotomayor married before she graduated from college and divorced a few
years later. Her diabetes, for which she takes insulin daily, has not proved
to be a problem, but some have speculated as to whether her illness could or
should be an issue in terms of her projected longevity on the court, because
of the potential for complications.
Some lawyers have described her courtroom manner as abrupt, but several
others said in interviews that it represents nothing more than her direct,
New York style. Judge Martin Glenn, who as a veteran appeals lawyer had
appeared before her frequently, said that she was widely regarded as an
Judge Glenn, now a federal bankruptcy judge, said that Judge Sotomayor
always asked “questions that were penetrating but fair.”
“She was always respectful,” he said.
Judge Glenn said lawyers generally regard her as representative of what he
said is called “a hot bench,” meaning that questions come fast and furious
and lawyers have to be fully prepared.
In addition to ending the baseball strike while on the trial court, Judge
Sotomayor ruled in another case that homeless people working for the Grand
Central Partnership, a business consortium, had to be paid the minimum wage.
In May 1994, she ordered New York State prison officials to allow inmates to
wear beads of the Santeria religion under their belts. And in December 1993,
she struck down as unconstitutional a White Plains law that prohibited the
displaying of a menorah in a city park.
After her ruling ended the baseball strike, the Yankees briefly considered
having her throw out the first pitch when play resumed, but the idea was
dropped after she suggested she had no interest because it would be