Thursday, March 15, 2012

Justice in an informal setting.

One of the things I love about where I work is that we often have interesting/influential people come speak to the students...and the staff, too.

Justice Sotomayor came and spoke at an informal, off-the-record forum on Tuesday morning and I scored a seat up close.  It was a fairly small crowd- probably 150 of us in all - and Justice Sotomayor sat and talked for about half an hour and then answered questions for another half hour. 

I was surprised to see how much older she looks in person than she does in the news.  Also, I was struck by what an amazing public speaker she is.  She brought no notes with her and spoke eloquently, with nary an "umm" or pause for a full thirty minutes. 

She talked about the differences between the district, circuit and supreme courts, how it is to work with 8 other strong-willed people, how she got her start in law, and even about her time spent judging a dispute for Elmo on Sesame Street.  It was absolutely fascinating. 

When questioned about normative issues and the law, she called attention to a specific footnote on an opinion (not written by her, mind you) of three years ago.  Who has a memory that recalls that kind of detail!?  Incredible!  All politics aside, who wouldn't be impressed by that?

My favorite moment of the session was when a student got up to ask the Justice a question.  With tears streaking her face with mascara and a voice cracked with emotion, she preceded her question by heaping praise and admiration on Justice Sotmayor.  And Justice Sotomayor looked more than a little uncomfortable about the show of emotion.  Good stuff.

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