Friday, August 7, 2009

T.G.I.F.: Soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice, Judge Sonia Sotomayor

In the 21st century it should not be such a great or impossible feat to have the highest judicial court in the land reflect the body of its citizens. Yet at this present moment, the U.S. Supreme Court has only a single female justice and a single non-white justice (hold the comments about Clarence Thomas's conservative politics and Uncle Tom slurs--he identifies as a black man and is a black man).

All of that is going to change shortly. Because yesterday Judge Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed 63-31 by the senate, and on Saturday she will be sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts as the nation's first Latina female judge.

Judge Sotomayor's credentials are impeccable. A graduate of Princeton (BA) and Yale (JD) universities, she has served the law for three decades. And, of course, by now everyone also knows her story--that she rose from a working class background out of the Bronx projects to the pinnacle of the legal profession.

It is, of course, not surprising that Obama's first chance at nominating someone to the Supreme Court would try to rectify the vision of America that is based in reality and not in a conservative, backwards view of the way "things were" or the way "things should be"--that with Sotomayor's confirmation, we inch one step closer to a vision of Mixed Race America that the Supreme Court should reflect and represent.

And surprisingly, one area we see this is within Sotomayor's family, particularly her two twin nephews, Conner and Cory (pictured above with Sotomayor at a baseball game). They were adopted from Korea to Sotomayor's brother, Juan and sister-in law, Tracey, and they have an older sister, Kiley. They have been introduced at various points in Sotomayor's march towards the Supreme Court, most notably during the start of her confirmation hearings.

[I can't blame them for falling asleep--the hearing really did drag on forever!]

One of the things I find interesting about Sotomayor's confirmation hearing is that there doesn't seem to be much made of her newphew's ethnicity or the fact that Juan Sotomayor and his wife adopted transracially as well as transnationally (at least not much made in the mainstream media). I wonder if this means that we are growing more accepting of families with adopted children and/or families whose racial and ethnic compositions are more visibly mixed.

[Judge Sotomayor speaking at the White House right after her nomination by President Obama]

At any rate, all of this seems like it deserves a T.G.I.F. award. Because while it seems so simple on the one hand, it has taken us, as a nation, so long to get here (and really, as far as gender is concerned, we are back to 1990s when Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be the second female justice--the only thing we've really broken is a color barrier by having two non-white justices, and one a woman to boot), on the other hand, we, and especially Judge Sonia Sotomayor, certainly worked long and hard to get to this place.


Laura Stillman said...

Congratulations Judge Sotomayor!

Cipher said...

lol; love the photo of the kiddies sleeping!

Genepool said...

I wish her luck! A lot of tough issues are headed in her direction. Affirmative action revisited to issues of privacy and corporate corruption (still)... sadly, she lives in interesting times.

Liberty said...

I have a particular interest in adoption and also wonder why this was not brought into the discussion. Perhaps she didn't want to use her family to make a point, or felt that bringing it up might appear as an appeal to emotion, which would hurt her case in regard to what she's up against as a woman.

Thanks for this post!


Jennifer said...


I think you are right--that it wouldn't have been appropriate for Sotomayor to highlight the nature of her nephews' transracial/transnational/adoptee status. I think what I was surprised by is that no media outlets or even blogs for that matter seem to have picked up this issue and run with it.

Maybe it's not surprising--after all they are her nephews and not her children. I guess one thought I had wondered about was whether Sotomayor's brother and sister-in-law ever got any push back on their adoption choice in terms of country-of-origin/ethnicity (in other words, would anyone have questioned why they didn't choose Latino children either in Latin America or the U.S.)? I guess I'm happy to see that there hasn't been this kind of push-back or scrutiny of their family choices--certainly Judge Sotomayor received enough judgement and scrutiny from everyone (esp. those Republicans on the committee) to last a lifetime.