The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Judge Sonia Sotomayor: Nominee for U.S. Supreme Court

Sonia Sotomayor

On May 26, President Obama announced his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter.  Sotomayor currently serves as judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a position she has held since 1998. 

Sotomayor's professional experience spans nearly every aspect of the law – prosecutor, partner in a law firm, trial judge, and federal judge.  In fact, if confirmed, she will replace Souter as the only current member of the Supreme Court with experience as a trial judge.  She has more federal judicial experience than any Supreme Court justice confirmed in a century.


Sotomayor's parents moved to a working-class Puerto Rican neighborhood in the East Bronx from Puerto Rico during World War II.  Her mother served in the Women's Auxiliary Corps while her father worked in a factory. 

Despite their humble beginnings, Sotomayor's parents strongly believed that in America, hard work pays off.  After her father died when she was nine, Sotomayor's mother worked extra shifts as a nurse to send her and her brother Juan, now a doctor, to Catholic school.  

Sotomayor thrived in school.  When diagnosed with childhood diabetes, she applied the same fierceness and work ethic to managing the condition as she did to her schoolwork.  She graduated valedictorian of her class at Blessed Sacrament and at Cardinal Spellman High School in New York.  Sotomayor applied to Princeton, inspired by her debate coach, a Princeton alumnus.  She won a scholarship and decided to attend.

She continued to excel at Princeton, graduating summa cum laude.  She was co-recipient of the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor bestowed on a Princeton undergraduate.   After completing her undergraduate studies, Sotomayor enrolled at Yale Law, where she became editor of the Yale Law Review and managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order.

After receiving her law degree in 1979, she served as assistant district attorney in Manhattan.  For five years she prosecuted dozens of criminal cases. 

In 1984, she entered private practice at the firm Pavia and Harcourt, and became a partner there in 1988. As an attorney in private practice, Sotomayor in intellectual property law, but practiced many types of law, including real estate, employment, banking, contracts, and agency law.

In October 1992, President George H.W. Bush appointed Sotomayor to be a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York.  As a trial judge, she soon earned a reputation for being a fair-minded judge with a keen intellect. 

Although most Americans know her as the judge who ended the Major League Baseball strike in 1995, she has also overseen hundreds of cases on a wide range of issues and is arguably the most qualified candidate nominated to the Court in decades.

In 1998, President Clinton appointed Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. During her tenure there, she participated in over 3,000 panel decisions, authoring roughly 400 published opinions.

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