A former Supreme Court correspondent for the Washington Post and current legal affairs editor for Reuters charts the spectacular career of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor—from the Bronx to the nation’s highest court.
Biskupic—who has written biographies of justices Scalia and O’Connor—combines scholarly rigor with a bit of human admiration in this cleareyed account of how someone advances a judicial career in 21st-century America. She periodically reminds us that Sotomayor came from a rough background, that she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton (after a slow start, she realized how behind she was) and that she excelled at Yale Law School. But the author also comments continually on Sotomayor’s networking—the vast array of supporters whom she has summoned at various stages of her career to propel her advancement, perhaps most successfully when newly elected President Barack Obama was making his first appointment to the Supreme Court (David Souter was retiring). To add a bit of a sharp edge, Biskupic quotes the opponents of Sotomayor, including Harvard Law School’s Laurence Tribe; twice, the author quotes Tribe’s letter to Obama declaring that Sotomayor is “not nearly as smart as she seems to think she is.” Biskupic also highlights Sotomayor’s vivacious personality—everything from her nail polish to her love life to her disconcerting ways in the court. The author focuses on some of Sotomayor’s cases (and comments) at various stages, including her controversial “wise Latina” remark and her impassioned defenses of affirmative action, a policy she often credits for her own successful career. We also learn about her work habits (assiduous) and her diabetes (under control). Most of all, however, we see in sharp relief the principal role that politics plays in court appointments.
A balanced but also admiring portrait of a Latina, a jurist and a trailblazer.