- NAME: Sonia Sotomayor
- OCCUPATION: Lawyer, Supreme Court Justice
- BIRTH DATE: June 25, 1954 (Age: 59)
- EDUCATION: Cardinal Spellman High School, Princeton University, Yale Law School, New York University, Columbia Law School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Bronx, New York
- Full Name: Sonia Maria Sotomayor
- AKA: Sonia Sotomayor
- ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer
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Nominated by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009, Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in US history.
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Sonia Sotomayor was born June 25, 1954, in the Bronx, New York. Her desire to be a judge was first inspired by the TV showPerry Mason. She graduated from Yale Law School and passed the bar in 1980. She became a U.S. District Court Judge in 1992 and was elevated to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998. In 2009, she became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history.
"Although I grew up in very modest and challenging circumstances, I consider my life to be immeasurably rich."
"Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see."
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
"I want to state upfront, unequivocally and without doubt: I do not believe that any racial, ethnic or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge, regardless of their background or life experiences."
"I am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. Today is one of those experiences."
Federal judge Sonia Sotomayor was born as the eldest of two children in the South Bronx area of New York City, on June 25, 1954. Parents Juan and Celina (Baez) Sotomayor, who were of Puerto Rican descent, moved to New York City to raise the family. Sotomayor's family functioned on a very modest income; her mother was a nurse at a methadone clinic, and her father was a tool-and-die worker who died when Sotomayor was only nine years old.
Sotomayor's first leanings toward the justice system began after watching an episode of the television show Perry Mason. After a prosecutor on the program said he did not mind losing when a defendant turned out to be innocent, Sotomayor said she "made the quantum leap: If that was the prosecutor's job, then the guy who made the decision to dismiss the case was the judge. That was what I was going to be."
After their father's death, Sotomayor's mother worked hard to raise the children as a single parent. She placed what Sotomayor would later call an "almost fanatical emphasis" on a higher education, pushing the children to become fluent in English and struggling to afford a set of encyclopedias to give them proper research materials for school.
Sotomayor graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx in 1972 and entered the ivy-league Princeton University. The young Latina woman felt overwhelmed by her new school; after her first mid-term paper returned to her with low marks, she sought help with more English and writing classes. She also became highly involved with the Puerto Rican groups on campus, including Accion Puertorriquena and The Third World Center. The groups, she said provided her "with an anchor I needed to ground myself in that new and different world." She also worked with the university's discipline committee, where she started working on her legal skills.
All of Sotomayor's hard work paid off when she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976. She was also awarded the Pyne Prize, which is the highest academic award given to Princeton undergraduates. That same year, Sotomayor entered Yale Law School, where she was an editor for the Yale Law Journal. She received her J.D. in 1979, and passed the bar in 1980. She immediately began work as an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan borough of New York City, serving a trial lawyer under District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. Sotomayor was responsible for prosecuting robberies, assaults, murders, police brutality and child pornography cases.
In 1984 Sotomayor entered private practice, making partner at the commercial litigation firm Pavia & Harcourt, where specialized in intellectual property litigation.
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When the 19th Amendment was ratified, women were finally given the right to vote, and over the years many courageous women have stepped onto the national political stage as well. In 1916, Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress and almost a century later Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina woman to serve on the Supreme Court. And within the last two decades, the esteemable Hillary Clinton has served as First Lady, a New York senator and Secretary of State. These women, and many more, are setting the stage for the future of female leaders in Washington.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women."
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Despite all sorts of institutional obstacles, women have continued to reach stratospheric levels of success in a full gamut of professional pursuits, whether as scientists, scribes, educators, governmental leaders, athletes, designers, film directors or performers. Learn more about the plethora of triumphs obtained by our group of trailblazers.
Visit Biography.com's Women's History group to explore more biographies, photos and videos of some the world's most fascinating women.
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