with historic distinction sonia sotomayor was sworn in saturday august 8 as the us supreme court's first latina justice, third female & third person (thurgood marshall, clarence thomas) of african ancestry in the top court's 220-year history. sotomayor is president barack obama's first appointment to the prestigious court, which has shaped many polarizing issues like abortion, school desegregation & the death penalty. as a successor to the now, retired, justice david souter, sotomayor is not expected to alter the nine-member court's ideological balance.
sotomayor initially swore an oath at a private ceremony in the room where the justices hold their private conferences. minutes later she took a second oath from chief justice john roberts in an ornate conference room, beneath a portrait of the heralded chief justice john marshall. as her left hand rested on a bible held by her beloved mother, celina, sotomayor pledged to "do equal right to the poor & to the rich." sotomayor rocked a cream-colored suit & her right ankle, fractured in a fall a couple of weeks after her (somewhat contentious) nomination, was unbandaged. her 60 or so guests included justice anthony kennedy, white house counsel greg craig & other members of the obama administration who helped prepare her for the senate confirmation hearings, as well as assorted family members & friends.
roberts said that once the oaths were administered sotomayor could "begin work as associate justice without delay." obama nominated her for the lifetime appointment in may & the senate confirmed her on thursday. the 55 year-old native new yorker has been lauded by some with the most impeccable credentials in 100 years, having been a federal judge for 17 years. she is the daughter of proud puerto rican parents raised in a south bronx housing project who was educated at princeton & yale b4 experiencing success in the legal profession. sotomayor will join justice ruth bader ginsburg as the only other woman currently serving on the court.
obama, noticeably absent from the ceremony, scheduled a white house reception for sotomayor on wednesday. the new justice can now begin working, although the supreme court won't hear arguments until september 9, in a key campaign finance case. the entire court will convene a day earlier, however, for a formal ceremony to welcome sotomayor. she will learn some of the court's quirky customs, for example, as a newcomer, she must take notes & answer the door when the justices have private meetings, including one in late september at which they dispose of a couple thousand appeals.
meir feder, a former clerk to sotomayor's predecessor, souter, says the first case in september could get her thinking about the biggest change anyone faces in becoming a justice, the far-reaching impact of some supreme court decisions. feder, who is now a partner at the jones day firm in new york, said, "there are few easy questions that come the court's way...you're not applying settled law because if it's settled, it shouldn't get there in the first place." sotomayor symbolizes cultural pride & gender solidarity everywhere; in fact, several women in an east harlem restaurant watched her ceremony on television together while sporting t-shirts emblazoned with the words, wise latina.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. email@example.com.