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Justice Sotomayor Seeks Public Role, Aims to Serve as a Role Model

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by Publius
Posted February 04, 2013, 1:58 PM

The New York Times reports:

She may be a relative newcomer to national life, plucked from circuit-court obscurity less than four years ago. But the release of her new memoir, “My Beloved World,” suggests that she has broader ambitions than her colleagues, to play a larger and more personal role on the public stage.

Prior generations of justices mostly hid behind their robes to preserve their authority, and some current members of the court seem more like legal technicians, dispassionately adjusting the law. Justice Sotomayor “makes it harder for the justices to appear neutral and detached, but that was always a fiction,” said Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

To say that Justice Sotomayor is less cloistered than most of her predecessors and colleagues may be an understatement: among many other appearances to promote her book, she salsa-danced with the Univision anchor Jorge Ramos in her chambers.

Other justices draw large crowds (particularly Antonin Scalia, known for his cheerfully pugnacious pronouncements) and have written No. 1 best sellers (as Clarence Thomas did in 2007). But Justice Sotomayor’s readings have the air of celebratory happenings, attended by entire families, people who left work early to line up for tickets and acolytes who quote her recent interviews from memory.

Excerpts from her book appeared in both People and People en Español magazines, and inauguration events were scheduled around her book tour. On Jan. 20, she administered the oath of office to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the early hour of 8:15 a.m., rather than just before noon as guided by the Constitution, because Justice Sotomayor had to appear that afternoon at a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan.

In a backstage interview at the library where she appeared here, Justice Sotomayor said that encouraging others through her personal story — the diabetic child of a poor, non-English-speaking alcoholic, the first Hispanic member of the Court — was an even more important contribution than her jurisprudence.

“It is my great hope that I’ll be a great justice, and that I’ll write opinions that will last the ages,” she said as she signed her way through giant stalagmites of books. “But that doesn’t always happen. More importantly, it’s only one measure of meaning in life. To me, the more important one is my values and my impact on people who feel inspired in any way by me.”

Serving as a role model “is the most valuable thing I can do,” she added. . . .

 

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