Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Jasmin. Jasmin Wonders, “Who is Sonia Sotomayor?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Jasmin!
Here in Wonderopolis, we’ve learned a thing or two about the U.S. government. You may know what it takes to be president. Perhaps you’ve learned about checks and balances. You may have even read about why there are nine justices on the Supreme Court. And today’s Wonder of the Day is about one person who sits on that court—Justice Sonia Sotomayor!
Who is Sonia Sotomayor? She was born on June 25, 1954. Her father, Juan Sotomayor, was a laborer. Her mother, Celina Baez, worked as a nurse. Both of Sotomayor’s parents were born in Puerto Rico and later moved to New York.
Sotomayor was born in and grew up in the Bronx region of New York City. Her father died when she was nine. Afterward, Sotomayor’s mother worked long hours to take care of the family. While Sotomayor was growing up, the family lived in a public housing project. Both Sotomayor and her brother followed their mother’s example of hard work.
In school, Sotomayor was a strong student. She was also an avid reader—her favorites were Nancy Drew books. After watching a TV show called “Perry Mason,” though, Sotomayor knew what she wanted to do with her life. She was determined to practice law one day.
With this goal in mind, Sotomayor studied hard in high school. At the same time, she was learning to deal with juvenile diabetes, with which she was diagnosed. In 1972, she graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School. Sotomayor then entered Princeton University.
At Princeton, Sotomayor was dedicated to her studies. She also connected with other students of Puerto Rican heritage through student groups on campus. In 1976, she graduated summa cum laude. She also won the Pyne Prize, the highest academic award for undergraduates at the school.
After her college graduation, Sotomayor entered Yale Law School. There, she became the editor of the Yale Law Journal. She also co-chaired the Latin American and Native American Students Association. Sotomayor graduated from Yale in 1979. She passed the New York bar exam the next year.
Sotomayor spent the first years of her career working as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. In this position, she proved herself as an able and hard-working lawyer. She took on many cases dealing with assault, murder, police brutality, and child abuse.
Later, Sotomayor joined a private law firm and worked in intellectual property law. She also took on extra cases pro bono. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to become a U.S District Court judge.
In 1995, Sotomayor oversaw the trial involving the 1994-1995 Major League Baseball (MLB) strike. As the judge in the case, she heard arguments from both sides. On March 31, 1995, she reinstated the terms of the previous labor agreement—just before MLB’s opening day. As a result, she became widely known as the judge who “saved baseball.”
Sotomayor’s career continued to rise. In 1997, President Bill Clinton nominated her to join the U.S. Court of Appeals. Then, in 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her for the U.S. Supreme Court. On August 6, 2009, she was approved by a vote of 68-31 in the Senate.
Sonia Sotomayor became the first person of Hispanic heritage—and only the third woman—to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Since 2009, Justice Sotomayor has defended equal rights and protected the rights of defendants. She has been a part of several landmark cases.
In addition to her work in the legal field, Sotomayor has authored several books. She wrote “My Beloved World,” a memoir about her life up to 1992. She has also published several children's books, including “Just Ask!” and “Just Help!” Sotomayor’s books are available in both English and Spanish.
Do you dream of sitting on the Supreme Court one day? If you’re willing to learn and work hard like Sonia Sotomayor, anything is possible!
Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.SL.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.L.2 CCRA.R.1, NCAS.A.1, NCAS.A.2, NCAS.A.3