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U.S. Supreme Court

Sotomayor Suggests Hispanic Ethnicity Is Reason Critics Questioned Her Intelligence

Posted Aug 27, 2010 7:08 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor credits her critics with strengthening her resolve and helping her move from a federal trial court to the country’s top court.

Speaking at an event sponsored by a group seeking to improve diversity in the legal profession, Sotomayor said she had mixed emotions when President Clinton nominated her for an appellate judgeship, the Denver Post reports.

Somayor said she loved being a trial judge, according to the Denver Post account. But when critics opposed her elevation to the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor decided she wanted the job. "If they hadn't fought so hard, I would have given up earlier," she said. "I didn't want to let them beat me."

She displayed the same stubborn streak as a toddler. When she didn’t want to eat, she puffed her cheeks and clenched her teeth, Sotomayor recalled. The more her mother tried to get her to eat, the more she resisted.

Sotomayor also talked about her critics in response to a question from a student about whether she had been a victim of racial profiling, the Post article says. During her confirmation hearings, Sotomayor answered, some people didn’t think she was intelligent enough for the Supreme Court. "Can anyone explain other than I am Hispanic why that would be?"

Sotomayor also told the students that she has been “living a fantasy” since she joined the Supreme Court, the Associated Press reports. Her greatest sacrifice, though, was "taking this job when I know I'm on the tail end of my mother's life." She said her mother was hospitalized two days ago in Florida, "and I'm not there."

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