Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor encouraged a Sesame Street muppet to consider her own career rather than opting to be a princess. Stephen Colbert, reporting on the segment, pointed out that far more American girls have grown up to be princesses than Supreme Court Justices. And only one person of Puerto Rican heritage has ever been a Supreme Court Justice: Justice Sotomayor.
Sotomayor’s appointment was hailed as “a watershed event for Puerto Rican New York” by the New York Times in 2009, but Puerto Ricans on the island and all over the mainland share Puerto Rican New York’s pride in their native daughter. The Times said that Sotomayor’s appointment was “arguably the highest rung that any Puerto Rican has yet reached in this country.”
Sotomayor was valedictorian at her high school, and — inspired, according to the Huffington Post, by Nancy Drew — decided to go into the field of criminal justice. Sotomayor has Type 1 diabetes, so the bench was a better choice for her than the beat. She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, winning the M. Taylor Pyne Prize, and went on to law school at Yale. After a distinguished career as a lawyer in New York which included pro bono work for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sotomayor was named a U.S. District Court Judge, the youngest (at that time) in the Southern District of New York City.
Sotomayor was appointed to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals and then to the Supreme Court. More recently, Sotomayor made headlines for “saving baseball” when she handed down a ruling that ended the baseball strike.
Though clearly a busy woman, Justice Sotomayor has taken the time for several visits to Sesame Street, where she has handed down judgements on cases like that of Goldilocks and the three bears. This unusual degree of public accessibility provides a positive image of Puerto Ricans. Perhaps it could help to smooth the transition from territory to state.