Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who grew up poor in New York City, described Monday how she navigated new worlds of Ivy League universities and the nation’s highest court.
Sotomayor told students at Yale University that she has a competitive drive to improve herself and isn’t afraid to ask questions.
Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court, said she didn’t even know what an Ivy League college was when a friend suggested she apply. She wound up attending Princeton and Yale Law School.
On the Supreme Court since 2009, Sotomayor said it was tough at first as justices made references that went over her head. She said joining the high court amounted to joining an ongoing conversation among justices who had served for years.
“I figure I may not be the smartest judge on the court but I’m going to be a competent justice,” she said. “I’m going to try to be the best I can and each year I think my opinions have been getting better. And I’m working at finding my voice a little bit.”
Sotomayor was asked at a talk at Yale Law School later in the day about her use of the term “undocumented immigrants” rather than the traditional illegal alien. Sotomayor characterized the issue as a regulatory problem and said labeling immigrants criminals seemed insulting to her.
“I think people then paint those individuals as something less than worthy human beings and it changes the conversation,” Sotomayor said.
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