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Justice Sotomayor Speaks About the Beneficial Role of Affirmative Action in Her Life

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by Publius
Posted January 29, 2013, 10:55 AM

According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in town Monday to promote her newly released memoir, said she couldn't talk about affirmative action because of a pending court case. In the next breath, she talked about what it had meant to her - admission to Princeton and Yale Law School and the launching of a legal career.

"I was given the chance to get to the start of the race and it changed my life," the 58-year-old justice told a sold-out Commonwealth Club audience at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.

When she entered Princeton on a scholarship in 1972 despite unspectacular test scores, she recalled, the school was in only its third year of admitting women and had barely a handful of minority students.

She graduated with honors, then had much the same experience as a Yale law student before becoming a New York prosecutor, a private lawyer and a federal judge. When President Obama appointed her to the Supreme Court in 2009, she became its third-ever female justice and first Latina.

"Yes, I needed help, but once I got there, I worked at it and I proved myself worthy," Sotomayor said. She said she wants to tell "people who have been accused of getting in because of special favors not to feel ashamed" of what they achieve on their own.

Her views contrast with those of the court's other minority justice, Clarence Thomas, whose race had earlier helped him gain admission to Yale Law School. No matter what he accomplished, Thomas wrote in a 2007 memoir, "it was futile for me to suppose that I could escape the stigmatizing effects of racial preference."

Such programs may soon be restricted or outlawed by the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in a University of Texas case in October. As usual, the liberal Sotomayor and conservative Thomas are likely to wind up on opposite sides. . . .

Last October, the Federalist Society producted a podcast on the subject "Fisher v. University of Texas: Affirmative Action Revisited by the Supreme Court" with Professor Gail Heriot fo the University of San Diego School of Law. Dean Reuter, the Federalist Society's Vice President & Director of Practice Groups, was the moderator. You can listen to the recording here.

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