The most recent New Yorker features a profile of the newest resident of the High Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Given the tone of the piece, you might think One First Street is turning into Melrose Place. Journalist Lauren Collins describes Sotomayor as “the first celebrity Justice”: a “diabetic, a divorcée, a dental-bill debtor, a person who, the night before her investiture ceremony, belted out “We Are Family” in a karaoke bar at a Red Roof Inn.”
The profile covers some familiar territory, highlighting attacks on Sotomayor’s intellect during the confirmation process and indignation over her aggressive questioning during oral arguments since taking a seat on the High bench.
Overall, though, it’s more favorable in tone than the profile of John Roberts in the magazine last year. As the WSJ Law Blog notes, Sotomayor comes across as “eminently personable” and as a “stickler for preparation.”
Tina Brown of the Daily Beast, a former editor of the New Yorker, is a bit more graphic in her reaction to the piece for NPR:
Brown says the justice comes across as an “up-from-the-bootstraps woman who loves to bust out a poker game and knock back a scotch.” But, Brown adds, she also comes across as meticulous, rigorous and heavily influenced by her mother, a nurse, who emphasized education above all else…
“Sotomayor is not a great prose styler, not a fancy-flourish merchant,” says Brown. “She’s not a person who’s going to reinvent the philosophical approach to law, but she does believe that the law is to be understood by the common man in the street. And I think that there’s a lot to be said for that, actually.”
We concur with Brown’s ruling on the piece. We’ve excerpted our favorite anecdote from the profile after the jump. Clerking for Sotomayor sounds fun….
This story from Sotomayor’s days on the Second Circuit should make becoming a clerk for Sotomayor at SCOTUS even more appealing:
Sotomayor’s chambers, at the federal courthouse on Foley Square, were known as a cheerful, unhierarchical place to work. One morning, everyone adjourned to see “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” At Halloween, Sotomayor decorated the office with scarecrows and pumpkins; in December, she would bring Christmas decorations and a menorah.
During the 2006-07 term, after an exhausting day of interviewing candidates for the next year’s clerk slots, Sotomayor invited her current clerks to her apartment, in Greenwich Village. “She was like, ‘O.K., guys, the second I’m done with the last interview I’m running home, we’re getting burgers!'” Kyle Wong, a former clerk, recalled. “We went over and she had Scotch and all this wine and beer. We sat down at eight and then she busts out the poker, and we play Texas hold ‘em until two o’clock in the morning.” At the end of the night, Sotomayor made sure that everyone had cab fare, yelling, as the clerks drove off, “I don’t have to see you guys before 10 A.M. tomorrow!”
Those applying for clerkships with Sotomayor may want to note their appreciation for Scotch.
Number Nine [The New Yorker]
On Justice Sonia Sotomayor: ‘Not Swinging for the Rafters’ [WSJ Law Blog]
Tina Brown’s Must-Reads: January Edition [NPR]