5 Minutes with Justice Sonia Sotomayor
May 15, 2013 — Although the publication date is still a few months away, we are already working diligently to make the second annual Yankees Magazine en Español even better than the first one.
On April 30, I conducted an interview with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which will appear in both Yankees Magazine en Español and in the September Issue of Yankees Magazine (both of which will come out on September 2).
The interview with Sotomayor, who was born and raised in the Bronx, took place in the Justice’s chambers. For me, it was an honor to conduct a one-on-one interview with Sotomayor, and it was an even great thrill to spend a half hour with her in the highest court in the land.
From the minute the interview began with the lifelong Yankees fan, I was taken aback by Sotomayor’s sincerity and intelligence.
A few questions into the interview, I asked Sotomayor how serving as an assistant district attorney in New York City during the early 1980s affected her views on the world.
“It made me realize that people do horribly bad things,” Sotomayor said. “You can’t be a police officer, law enforcement agent or judge without being exposed to the worst things people are capable of doing. People commit horrific crimes not just against strangers, but also against their relatives, and that can make you lose faith in people. This kind of work can make you suspicious about the goodness in people, and knowledge of that possibility is important. But if you look at the defendant who has committed the horrible crime as the model of a human being, you’re forgetting the police officer who is spending his or her life protecting you. I’d much rather focus on the police officer and those good human traits than on the bad.”
A few minutes later, Sotomayor spoke to me about the moment in which President Obama informed her that she was his nominee for the Supreme Court.
“At about 8:10 at night, my cellphone rang,” Sotomayor said. “I picked it up, and the voice on the other side said, ‘This is the White House switchboard operator. Please hold for the president.’ My heart began to beat very loudly. I still didn’t want to believe he would pick me because if he were calling me to offer me condolences, I was going to be very disappointed. I was holding my breath with my heart pounding. Thankfully, he got on the phone with me quickly, and said, ‘Judge, I am calling because I’ve decided to make you my nominee to the United States Supreme Court.’ I immediately began to cry. I had to put my hand over my heart to keep it from beating out of my chest. I said to him, ‘Mr. President, I’m crying.’ It was the most overwhelming moment of my life.”
Near the end of this interview, which I consider to be one of the very best I’ve conducted in my life, I asked the Justice a few questions about her favorite baseball team.
I was especially moved by Sotomayor’s answer to a question about the ceremonial first pitch she threw at Yankee Stadium in 2009 (see photo below).
“I took my brother with me that day, and at the end of the game, he said, ‘If you ever owed me anything, today you’ve paid me off,’” Sotomayor said. “The Yankees have a history in which people take enormous pride, and I felt as if I was sort of a spec in that history when I was on the mound. That was deeply moving, and I felt as if I had lived yet another fantasy.”
–Alfred Santasiere III