Supreme Court Nominations

Switch from Nancy Drew to Perry Mason Laid Path for Sotomayor

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A diagnosis of diabetes for a young Sonia Sotomayor changed the direction of her life.

As a girl, Sotomayor loved Nancy Drew mysteries and wanted to be a police detective, the New York Times reports. But a doctor told her that would be a difficult career for someone with diabetes. So Sotomayor became a fan of Perry Mason and opted instead for a career as a lawyer.

Today the appeals judge on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in New York is reportedly on a short list of possible nominees to fill a U.S. Supreme Court seat for the retiring Justice David H. Souter. Some speculate whether diabetes could still be an issue, the newspaper says. Even though it has not been a problem for Sotomayor, the potential for complications could cut short a Supreme Court appointment.

Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx housing project where her mother, a nurse, bought the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood, the Times profile says. Her father died when she was 9.

Sotomayor has called her college days at Princeton a life-changing experience, the Times profile says. Sotomayor has said her experience on campus was like “a visitor landing in an alien country.” She didn’t volunteer in class her first year there. “I was too embarrassed and too intimidated to ask questions,” she said. She later attended Yale Law School.

“I have spent my years since Princeton, while at law school and in my various professional jobs, not feeling completely a part of the worlds I inhabit,” she said in one speech. “I am always looking over my shoulder wondering if I measure up.”

Another story in the New York Times highlights another Sotomayor speech in which she said the ethnicity and sex of a judge “may and will make a difference in our judging.”

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” said Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

The Times highlights some of Sotomayor’s best-known decisions, including:

• As a trial judge, Sotomayor ended a baseball strike in 1995 by ruling baseball owners were trying to subvert the labor system.

• Sotomayor voted with an appeals panel rejecting a challenge by white firefighters who sued after the fire department threw out a promotions test that produced no minority candidates. The case is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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