I had known that Sotomayor was to speak at the luncheon of the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA), but I thought that it would be platitudes and of no interest. I knew that she could not answer the difficult questions, such as how the fairness rules in Specht v. Netscape might be updated (the case that occurred because AOL bought Netscape and made Netscape suck by adding adware), or what she really thinks of Scalia. She could not discuss any matter that might come before the Supreme Court in the future, and would not even talk about role models or personal influences.
She had a lot to say and a room full of several hundred schmoozing lawyers fell silent as soon as she reached the podium. She talked about how people react now when she walks in the room — even her extended family. “I’m still Sonya,” she tells her family. She said that she used to sit in the back of the room and watch people react, but now she’s often in the front row or even the speaker.
Most of what she said was directed at the college students who have scholarships from the FCBA, and a few of her comments were directed to law students like me who have summer internship stipends thanks to the FCBA. The students were asked to write questions and all were good questions. One student asked how she stays connected to regular people. She said that she likes talking to young people. So at the FCBA, she sat with the high school students. When invited to a high school, she likes to do at least one activity with the middle school students.
Another asked if she had any regrets about law school. She said that she regrets not having pursued a judicial clerkship after graduating (but she was personally recruited by Morgenthau to join the Manhattan DA’s office).
The students each received a copy of her book (I had given my DC host a copy but did not have a copy myself). I would not usually write about what a woman was wearing, but in the book, Sotomayor talks about acquiring dress sense late in life. She wore a red jacket with zippers that was impressive but that also helped make her seem approachable. It was a brilliant choice.
Perhaps there’s one legal question she could have answered: has the Supreme Court ever considered naming sections with words? At the moment, it uses roman numerals and capital letters. Some justice’s opinions might be clearer with section titles, but Sotomayor’s do not need them.
When critics reviewed her book, they said that although her opinions are dry and dispassionate, her book is full of warmth. It’s true. If you have a chance to her you speak, you must go!