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Justice Sonia Sotomayor visits Pace Law School

United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor visited Pace Law School in November. At the Justice’s request, her time was focused on meetings with our students. During her day-long visit, Justice Sotomayor shared insights into the practice of law and her experiences as a judge. She responded to students’ inquiries during a 90-minute Q&A, met with members of the Latin American Law Students Association, and also talked with students in the Federal Judicial Honors Program.  

“As a Justice, I place great emphasis on making sure people are fairly heard,” she told the students. “You can’t control the outcome—the law does that. But you can make sure they are heard.”

She dispensed career advice, imploring the law students to spend some time clerking for a judge.

“No legal job you can find that condenses as much learning into one year. A year as a clerk equals four to eight years of practice.”

When one student introduced herself as the daughter of immigrants, Justice Sotomayor told her it was unlikely her parents would ever really understand her career or her life as their experiences were so different. She encouraged her to find the work that makes her happy as, ultimately, that was what parents want for their children. Justice Sotomayor expanded that wish to all the students listening that day.

“You are going to work hard (as a lawyer) whatever you do,” she said. “Find something that makes you happy.”

Pace Law School has enjoyed a long relationship with Justice Sotomayor. While a United States Circuit Judge, she participated in the Federal Judicial Honors Program at Pace Law School from 1999 to 2009. In 2003, she was awarded an honorary degree and delivered the Commencement address. This was her first return to our campus since she became an Associate of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Justice Sotomayor serves as “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity.” These words, first read when she received her honorary degree from Pace Law School, were quoted in the official statement issued by the White House when announcing her nomination to the Supreme Court. Appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, Justice Sotomayor is the first Latina to sit on the United States Supreme Court.

Press coverage of the event included articles by the Associated Press, Telemundo, and Reuters’ legal blog “News & Insight.” 

Justice Sotomayor’s trip was the first visit to Pace Law School by a sitting Supreme Court Justice. However, it marks the culmination of a year of inspiring visits by distinguished judges. These include:

  • Hon. Harold Baer, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York
  • Hon. Helen Freedman, N.Y.S. Supreme Court Justice, Appellate Division
  • Hon. Myron H. Thompson, U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Alabama
  • Hon. Robert A. Katzmann, U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Hon. Andrew L. Carter, Jr., U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York