Photo: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
During her recent visit to Northwestern University, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was rather candid in her responses to the university’s law students.
After the pre-approved questions from the school’s law professors were asked and answer, Justice Sotomayor took questions from law students, and in her responses she was more honest than one might expect.
When asked about the seemingly sexist questioning she underwent before being appointed to her current position, the justice told her audience, “You know, and I don’t mean to be graphic, but one day after I’d been questioned endlessly, for weeks at a time, I was so frustrated by the minutiae of what I was being asked about and said to a friend, ‘I think they already know the color of my underwear.’”
“There were private questions I was offended by. I was convinced they were not asking those questions of the male applicants,” she said, indirectly pointing to questions about her dating life. “I wondered if they ever asked those questions of the male candidates. But the society has a double standard.”
Without stating whether she was referring to those in a district court, appellate court, or Supreme Court, she added that “many single male colleagues who are judges who date often, bring dates to court affairs and nobody ever talks about them. I knew if I did the same thing, my morals would be questioned. So I’m very careful about whom I date and how public it is.”
After giving advice on the best way to seek a job as a judge’s clerk, and other helpful tips, Justice Sotomayor was probably most honest when she expressed that even after all her years as a judge, she still has trouble with the fact that, in her current position, the decisions she makes are the final word. She noted that being a judge in the U.S. Supreme Court holds a different kind of pressure because in lower courts, if someone makes a mistake, there is still a higher court to correct it. Her greatest surprise “has been how burdened I have felt in the decision-making process because I am part of the final court. I find that the weight of this is greater than I anticipated.”
After Justice Sotomayor’s appearance at Northwestern, the university’s former law school dean, Robert Bennett said, “This is a woman who speaks her mind, is very open and still gives the impression that she’s learning on the job and not ashamed of that.”