Born: June 25, 1954, in the Bronx, N.Y.
Sonia Sotomayor made history on August 6, 2009, when the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Sotomayor became the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. She is the third woman to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court. She follows Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Sotomayor, the daughter of Puerto Rican-born parents, grew up in New York City. Her father died when she was 9 years old. Her mother, Celina, worked hard to support Sonia and her brother. Sotomayor says her mother's sacrifices made her professional success possible.
After earning a bachelor's degree at Princeton University in 1976, Sotomayor went to Yale Law School. There, she was an editor of the prestigious Yale Law Journal before earning a law degree in 1979.
From 1979 to 1984, Sotomayor was an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office. She then moved to the private sector, where she litigated international commercial matters at a prominent law firm. She rose to become a partner in the firm.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush appointed her to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. She served in that position until 1998. From 1998 to 2009, Sotomayor served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She was appointed to that position by President Bill Clinton.
In addition to her positions on the bench, Sotomayor also taught at Columbia Law School and New York University School of Law.
On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. During her Senate confirmation hearings, two of her previous cases received considerable attention. In 1995, she decided against Major League Baseball owners, who had not consulted the players' union in changing rules regarding salaries and free agency. The decision ended a players' strike that had lasted nearly a year. In 2008, as part of a three-judge panel, Sotomayor sided with the city of New Haven, Connecticut. The city had dismissed the results of a firefighter's examination because no African Americans had scored well enough to be promoted. That decision had already been overturned by the Supreme Court in June 2009, prior to Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearings.
Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate on August 6, 2009. She was sworn in on August 8 by Chief Justice John Roberts. Sotomayor became the 111th Supreme Court Justice. She replaced liberal Justice David Souter, who had retired on June 29. Sotomayor is also considered part of the Court's liberal bloc.
Sotomayor's memoir, My Beloved World, was published in 2013.
Introduce your students to the richness of Hispanic heritage with these lesson plans, book lists, and teaching ideas.