There are not many occasions on which Cardozo students voluntarily wait in line outside of their school to hear a guest speaker. However, on October 22nd, such was the case when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited Cardozo for the first time since being appointed to the Supreme Court. Hundreds of Cardozo students were able to watch the question-and-answer segment moderated by Judge Ashley Nathan of the Southern District of New York, both in person and via live streaming in the third floor lounge.
Justice Sotomayor arrived at Cardozo shortly before 5 p.m. and was greeted by Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel, Cardozo Dean Matthew Diller, several faculty members, and a group of students. After a quick photo opportunity, she was lead into the Moot Court Room along with Judge Nathan. After introductions by both President Joel and Dean Diller, Judge Nathan shared a personal anecdote on how she met Justice Sotomayor as well as a photograph capturing the moment when Justice Sotomayor met Judge Nathan’s two newborn sons the week after Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation.
Throughout the question-and-answer period, student-submitted-questions were asked, and the topics varied greatly. The first questions revolved around the Justice’s role on the court, to which she said, “Every case we get is a hard case.” She told the audience that “when judges speak, clarity suddenly comes in the room” and “everyone accepts what you say as what it is.” When asked how different her life has become since being appointed to the Supreme Court, the Justice shared that in every case, someone loses a lot, which is a fundamental difference in her life post-appointment. She also said that she is still not used to the public recognition she receives walking down the street or in a restaurant.
Justice Sotomayor’s dedication to educating youth was apparent, and she said that the more education and outreach the justices provide, “the more people believe in the Court.”
On a question regarding women of color in the legal field, the Justice said she felt that “our largest obstacle is the insecurity we’re taught to feel.”
Justice Sotomayor also spoke of her family and shared a story of how she explained to her niece what she does on a daily basis. Her response: “We take care of people’s problems when they can’t solve them by themselves.”
Before the conversation ended, Justice Sotomayor shared some advice with Cardozo students. “Worry a little less. Find some work that satisfies you…without buying into other people’s judgments.”
A reception followed the question and answer segment where students had a chance to meet and speak with Justice Sotomayor while enjoying food and drinks. The evening ended with an intimate catered meal for the Justice and Judge Nathan, along with several students and facultymembers.
“Justice Sotomayor spent a great deal of time talking to students, which was the most wonderful part of a fascinating and inspiring evening,” said Dean Diller. “I was proud of our students and I am extremely grateful to the Justice and to Judge Nathan.”
Justice Sotomayor joins Justices Steven Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor, and John PaulStevens in having visited Cardozo in recent years.