tv Stanford University Hosts Discussion with Supreme Court Justice Sonia... CSPAN July 5, 2017 10:13am-11:28am EDT
when really they were riddled with weak spots and places that would crunch in. >> sunday night at the eastern on c-span's q&a. >> supreme court justice sonia sotomayor spoke at stanford university law school earlier this year about her experiences as a young lawyer, hereducation at princeton and yale and growing up in new york city. this is an hour and 15 minutes . >>. [applause] you touched my heart, thank you. well, as i think you can see
from the evidence we are excited to host you at stanford university. >> i'm excited to be here, it's really a lovely place. and a wonderful university. you guys did a good job getting here. >> before we get started let me go over the run as it were. i have a conversation with the justice for a couple minutes, 15 or 20 minutes, then the justice will go into the audience and take some questions that students and staff submitted in the lottery process. in the interest of time we selected a few for the justice to answer and she will make her way through the audience for so and come back onstage for a few minutes at the end. i will call on students and they will take their questions. >> you will see men and women with little things in their ears. they are my marshals. they are here to protect me from myself. [laughter] and they really don't like me going into the audience but i don't give them much choice.
they breached a wonderful compromise which is if nobody jumps up unexpectedly, they let me stay. if too many people jump up, then they take me off the floor so cooperate with in those spaces and don't scare me. thank you. >> justice, the first question is this is a roomall of students . i was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the role education plays in your life and even the role of a particular class or set of teachers who shaped your aspirations, your approach and your professional life and if you could go back and give yourself advice when you were an undergraduate at princeton or a law student, what advice would you get? >> let me start with how i started to value education. because i really didn't the beginning. largely in retrospect now , i understand because i spoke spanish before spoke english
and it's not very clear to me that i understood what my teachers were saying the first four years of my education and in fact, for the longest time, it took almost till my adulthood to understand certain grammar school lessons at that time i really didn't get . so all of you know the words that sound alike where they are there, it took me a while to find out how to use them right. i had to go back and relearn them that in fourth grade and i describe this in my book, my dad died, my phone became very sad and i use books to escape the sadness. i was sort of watching to see what my mother was doing because i was worried about her and her unhappiness so she would sort of locked herself in her bedroom and i would sit outside with the door open, reading a book and
what i found was that the book gave me a authorship not only around the world but through the universe. i got to visit places through books that i never thought i would ever see. and it's an amazing experience now as i'm growing more senior in years to have the resources to visit some of those places and see how they match up and sometimes they match up pretty closely, other times they don't, it's always an adventure and a surprise and a wonderful opportunity to experience something new. but learning how to read and how to understand the power of the word, words take pictures. and that was one of the ways
i learned how to be a good lawyer. learning how to use words through witnesses to get them to paint the picture they had experienced.read my book and there are passages in my book where you will see pictures in your head through the words i chose and that happiness if that's the way you read books, understanding that's what they do for you but in that experience of reading, i understood the power of education. because it took you not just to places you might never experience but to thoughts that you might never otherwise have entertained. and that is the power of education. it opens you inside and out to experiences that don't, often innately, to thoughts
that you might not have not because you lack intelligence or anything else but because they don't come within the can of your experience but my learning, you open up the world. and your self to greater opportunities. it's always ask me, did i dream about being a supreme court justice and my answer is you can dream about what you didn't know about and in the south bronx, they didn't know about supreme court justices, okay. in my neighborhood there were no lawyers so who ever dreamt about the law? i learned about it mostly through television about what lawyering was. not a very perfect way to learn. and certainly skewed somewhat in the wrong directions, okay? but i understood that by educating myself i would be exposing myself to more knowledge about the
opportunities in the world and that leads me to what i would do differently today in college. not so differently because i fell into it in part intuitively but it's been reaffirmed to me that it's very valuable to helping me sort of succeed in life. i went into college and my first week before isigned up for classes i had a bunch of classes in mind . i saw the titles of the classes and i felt a little overwhelmed . i didn't think i was smart enough to be princeton. and as a reflective, protective mechanism, i decided you know, i better take as many introductory courses as i can. i don't want to really prove myself stupid. i was terribly afraid of that. so i took introductory courses in things that
sounded interesting but it did something more. there were things that i wanted to know about because i had read about them in newspapers but didn't know what they meant. and i thought well, i should take advantage. i hear about this guy frederick all the time. what does freudian slip mean? and so i took an introductory psychology course and i not only learned about freud, i learned of how pavlovian responses and all this other jargon. none of which i've had to put into any real use. but i have sort of understood its principles or the
principles of those theories and i interwoven them in some of my presentations as a lawyer in getting people to respond to me. and so those ways, information always helps you. my first year in introductory economics course , i would hear about supply and demand or read about it in thenewspapers or hear about the debate on the news . i just wanted to be informed. i did the same thing taking a course on religions of the world . how many of you read about or hear about all of the world wars that we have had over religious issues? how many of you really understand why and what the tension is about? i took philosophy courses, our theology course. i eventually narrowed my interests into latin american history but it was after i
had given myself a liberal arts education. i figured out first how to be a generally informed citizen before i tried to be a specialist in anything else. and that's the advice i would give all of you who are experiencing college. take courses in areas that don't particularly interest you but might make you a more knowledgeable person. curious people go further. it is curiosity that leads you to experience new things and might lead you to find an interest that you never imagined. and it's that curiosity that will keep you good company for others.
people like being with people who can tell stories, right? and if you can tell interesting stories about interesting things, people will gravitate to you. and so the more you know, i think, the further you will get in life. my mother used tell me that education is the key to anything you want in theworld . i have found that to be true. >> thank you justice. [applause] >> you currently hold a pretty great job in law, justice. you've previously held many other jobs in law and user particularly as a prosecutor and also for designing overclass including some complicated ones. either lessons you took from being a prosecutor or trial judge that still stays with youtoday ? >> all yes, lots of them. i know for asking a lot of questions about the record
indicates to the non-lawyers in the room, the records are all the facts that happen below, the basis for which the judge in the trial court ruled and what happens on the intermediate appellate level. that's the record. and because we are the supreme court's and because generally we are asking a legal question, what does the law or the constitution mean in this setting, there are many judges on sort of the supreme court's for the record is a secondary issue. it's purely the intellectual question that captivates them. and in fact, i've been criticized by some for being too record centered. but i think that very much is a product of my extensive
trial experience and the fact that i was a trial judge, because as a result of the experience, i believe that the law should be incrementally grounded. we are known as a common law system of justice which means that we develop the law on the basis of the facts of the case. that case defines the parameter ofwhatever legal ruling the court makes . and the next case which is always different, by the way is people don't come to court if a particular issue has been decided. if the identical facts have been presented in court, you're not going to come back the same time make the same argument can lose again. you're going to try to find a twist on the that you believe
gives you a basis for arguing why the court should do something different. so i'm a common-law judge tried to take each case as the facts present. but that's not the way the supreme court works because the supreme court is really looking at thelegal issue as a whole . and it's not even necessarily looking at how to apply that legal issue to the vast set of particular facts. it's looking to announce the legal principle that can control the direction of the law in that area. that's a very different focus than a trial judge. the trial judge is trying to make a ruling for the parties before him or her. they're trying to do justice for those parties. the supreme court is trying to do justice for the development of law.
it can have and always has consequences on people and it's not that we forget those consequences but we can and often do look at the situation before us and say this might be a bad outcome for this particular party, but in the long run, society is better served by the ruling that looks at the outcome long-term and where it leads us. so for me, it's finding that balance that i work on. always informed by being a judge that deals with people. an understanding and never losing sight that laws do affect people first and foremost. and that doesn't mean that because i think aparticular outcome is bad , that i will rule the other way. some outcomes can be pretty
horrible and i still have to rule for that outcome because i believe that's what the law requires but if i'm doing it, i don't want to do it blindly. i want to do it informed about what i'm doing. and i have to ensure that i can always articulate a reason that i can live with because at the end of each evening i have to be able to lie down and live with myself and so it is important, i think and that's what the trial judge and taught me. to recognize the human cost of our decisions. >> there have been many points in our history, the civil war, civil rights movement where we been divided as a people. we are again in a period of deep polarization as a political scientist with same. you are part of a profession branch of government that believes deeply in reasoned
disagreement and reason decision-making even on matters where we have profoundly different views. my question is, to questions i guess, one focused on the students. what do you think is the key to persuading someone who is skeptical of your position to agree with you and what would you tell students about how to engage productively in an era wherewe are deeply divided ? >> i start always, and i think it's where all of my colleagues start, which is with respect for the passion and good intentions of each other. i respect every one of my colleagues. i know that they are just as passionate as i am about the law, the constitution and our system of government.we all
work really, really equally hard to get the answers right . we disagree, not infrequently with how to do that. but it's not from a bad intent. it's always from a good intense of believing fiercely that the right answer is what the country needs. and if you can start from there, you accept the logical answer that if it is a person of goodwill talking to you, there is something in what they are saying to you about their views and their needs about what is worrisome to them that has justification.
and if you can look at someone else's position and understand what'smotivating them , what they are afraid of, what they think they need to give them comfort, to get them closer to your point of view, if you can address those things, you can persuade and move people. if you start from the proposition that what they feel, what they think, what they want to do has no legitimacy, then all you're doing is talking past each other. and you will never come to the same table and you will remain divided. the cause if your attitude is whatever you say is just plain stupid or wrong, how are they going to respond to you?
and you don't get much hurt and so for me, that sense of engaging people on their terms, on their needs and moving those things closer to what i need as always been a successful way of negotiating. i give an example and it's a very, very small example. when i was a judge on the district court i had a group of 11 plaintiffs who were people of color who had been fired from a company that was downsizing. and as it is regrettably all too common, they were the first in or the last in and first out.so the company was firing on seniority and all the people that affected
were the people of color because they had been the last ones i had in that company. they sued, claiming race discrimination in the decision that was made and its consequences and the parties were deforming and i encouraged the company president and human resources director to come to court. i asked the 11 plaintiffs to come to court so we couldhave a settlement conference . and they remained very far divided. and at one point, i looked at them and said you know, i think each of you are immobile because you don't really understand each other's perspective . you, mister president, think about what you would feel like if you spent a large percentage of your working career being a loyal employee
to your company, being everything the company wanted, doing it as right as you humanly could, giving them your sense of commitment and passion for the products that the company makes and for the family that you build in the company and all of a sudden, you wake up one morning and the company president says to you thanks joe, by. i can't afford you anymore. there's a deep, deep seated sense of loss in that. like you spent all those years working for a company who values you so little. it demeans you, it gives you a sense of loss because in every company that builds a family, when you lose that family, the loss is like death.
i said so imagine how they're feeling. you can tell them it was business necessity but it doesn't do anything for their emotional state. it's a loss for them. and you, employees, understand something. i understand that and maybe a jury will understand it but legally, they can do what they did unless it was motivated byrace . and if there is true economic necessity, a jury may or may not find in your favor and if they don't find in your favor , your sense of loss might continue to be very great. and so both of you have needs
. they think their need isreal , they are having economic difficulty difficulties. your sense of loss is real. you both have risks in the courtroom. the house and figure out how you value each other's perspective. misty had come to me, it was about three years old. that's why they gave it to me, because i was a new drip judge and it was an old case. they went out and settled it. now, i didn't say anything that their lawyers didn't say but sometimes having a non-lawyer look at both sides and touch each other's buttons makes a difference but all i did was try to articulate what each side was thinking.
and people can feel but that's generally my advice to people. don't start by thinking that the other side has no basis for their feelings. there's always a reason for people's feelings. there's always something that's affecting them. if you can try and spend the time during out what that is, you can use that information to come to a fair answer. >> let's take some questions from the students. >> i love you i'm coming down to stacy. i was told to start this way. all right, i'm only going to go up two thirds of the way cause you guys can't see me and i'm sorry to do that to you but the reason i come down into the audience is, they put me all the way back here so people in the back
really don't get a chance to see what i look like. and they don't feel like they are engaged in what i'm saying so i think being among you engages you more and less people who have the misfortune of coming in late see me do, okay? all right, i'm coming down. if you can ask the question and i can multitask and listen and get there at the same time in the interest of time, i'm going to introduce the student and give your affiliation. not everyone needs to say thank you for being here cause we are also happy that she's here and we will get through more of the questions. the first question is from mario to work with the first year law student. >> hello. >> hi. my question is what were your greatest fears and hopes upon joining the supreme court and
have any of them and realize thus far? >> my biggest fear is the one i struggled with my entire life in every experience i've ever had. would i be good enough? i tell people if you have a new experience and you're not a little scared, you're defeated and if you're conceited, ... [applause] and if you're conceited, you're likely to get something really wrong. when i was a prosecutor, my boss one day told the story of my supervisor, not the big boss, told the story of a woman, a woman in the va who came in and started to cry
and he looked at her and said please, be like a man. go into the bathroom and throw up instead. and i said what if you can do both? [laughter] and we talked about that a little bit and said that is, can be a gender difference.men are taught culturally to throw up and, or not taught not to cry. but every situation i've been in, it's not the imposter syndrome. they got a name for it but it is not the imposter syndrome is a true imposter syndrome person doesn't fail. i don't try to fail. i just sort of live with that insecurity that i don't know if i'll begood enough . the lesson that i have tried to learn in life and i have actually gotten there is that
there is no one definition of success. and that's the problem. we sort of use other people's measure of success and sometimes it's money, sometimes it's the level of prestige. sometimes it's whatever measure people think of importance. but the reality is that if you spend your time measuring success yourself, by your own bowl, what is it that i want to do? and i take each day and grow each day one step at a time. can i learn something new each day? can i better my skill set? if i approach what i'm doing in that way, i kid myself , i
give myself a cushion against my own disappointment and it's a very important cushion , because i watch people who throw themselves at something bigger than they are. they fail and then theyget . and i take each failure as an opportunity to say okay, let me get up and take a smaller step. let me back up and figure out what i was doing wrong and what i need to fix and move either towards the wall to break it down or around the wall to get around it. and so maybe that wall will have to stay there but maybe i can do somethingin a slightly different direction . so that's what i did at the supreme court. i went in very, very fearful. my first three years, i was
working crazy hours. i worked almost 7 days a week . and it was a really long long day. i went everything i could, before every case i read old supreme court decision. i read every brief that came into the office word for word. i read books on justices and what made them good justices. i did everything possible to inform myself and figure this job out. after three years, i'm still learning. i can't tell you that i'm a perfect justice, far from it. i don't think there such a thing. one of my colleagues mentors, john paul stevens who retired when he was 90 years old, one day said to me when i was expressing my doubts he says
sonja, nobody's born a justice. your board a person. and you learn and grow into everything you do. so have i gotten there? number i'm working at getting there.every day in this job, i think about what i do, i reflect on what i'm doing. every time i have a discussion with my colleagues and something doesn't go the way i wanted to, i go back to rethink it and figure out what i did wrong and then i try a different approach. and if i draft something that people don't like and i have to make changes, i think about what they're telling me and what it was i did and i go back and try to avoid that the next time. it's not a perfect process, learning. it's an incremental process
of trying to better yourself. step-by-step, inch by inch. and for me, it's really work and i've spent i expect it will continue working as it does, as i found more and more of my own voice, my own sense of what's important to me, we get cases from around the country. there's 8500 cases that come through the courts in petitions for certiorari, certiorari his review of the decision so we get 8500 of those petitions. we can only hear, well, we're hearing to fields, people criticize us for that. we are only hearing about 60 to 70 year, we could probably hear more but even if we heard more, where not anywhere close to those cases. so we have to make judgments
about what's important for the court to hear. and i have a voice in that. and so for me, i have at least succeeded in achieving a respect for the fact that my voice is my voice. it's different than my colleagues but that is okay. we agree on a lot of things, some things we disagree on and sometimes you just say things because they need to be said and i'm getting more comfortable understanding that. thank you. >> good luck to you. [applause] >> wears that young woman, hold on one second. come on. >>. [applause] the second
question justice is from arielle colorado and who's a second-year graduate in pathology at the medical school. >> wonderful, thank you. >> my question to you is how do you leverage growing up in lower income neighborhoods in new york city with going to institutions to complete your education and how did you adjust to the culture shock ofrealizing you gain you didn't have growing up ? [applause] >> you know something, i don't know that you can ever leverage poverty. being poor is being poor, okay? and you can try to make it attractive, i did a fairly good job in my book, okay? no no and part of the purpose of my book, the real big purpose of my book was to ensure that people who viewed
my culture and my training as completely native, when you think of places like projects or for apache which is where i grew up and where my family lived growing up, it was the most trying written neighborhood in the entire united states at the time, okay? and there's a movie about it, if any of you are interested, rent the movie and you will see how unattractive the people there were trade. and part of the focus of my book was in showing people the human side of my life. but then you feel the facts that i came from a family just like bears, to show them the needs and love and aspirations of the people who live in those really bad neighborhoods were not all corrupt, were not all bad people, we have challenges
and we have to learn how to overcome them but we are not bad human beings. and that's the vision that most people don't have my neighborhood. or the scene. >>. >> i'm not a student by love you. >> thank you. so it was a complete and utter culture shock. going to princeton university. >> the cricket outside my window the first week drove me crazy. >> i actually thought it was inside of the room and took it apart. >> and it was my then boyfriend, future husband who came to visit me and i told him i was looking for the cricket and he said, he started to laugh and said it's on the ranch outside your window. >> those were the small things.
>> the big things were sitting next to the southern woman who sat down to tell me about the six generations of her family who had attended princeton. i was the first one to go to college and actually stay in college in my family in the united states. it was hearing kids talk about summer and midterm vacations in places i had only heard of and never imagined visiting. it was learning things that one would have assumed a kid from a fairly decent catholic school system in new york would have known about. alice in wonderland.
but you forget that my parents were puerto rican and back then, alice in wonderland wasn't translated. so it wasn't the book that my parents had given me as a child. and you would think i should have known about alice in wonderland but i didn't. so i had to read alice in wonderland. and that is what we have to do. when we come from a different culture. >> we can't denigrate the other culture, we can't denigrate our own culture. i take a great deal of pride in the latino i am. >> and we have some of the most extraordinary authors, artists and visions, people of knowledge that the world
possesses. but so does america. and that i can share and learn and be in both cultures and enriches me. >> and i hope that i'm making contributions that enrich the other culture as well. that's how we do it. we retain and maintain pride in who we are and what we give. and forcing others to see us. and understand that we, too can give of equal value. and that's how i leverage. i never let anybody forget that if they think i'm smart, it's not because of affirmative action. [applause]
>> justice, we're getting close to the end of our time. >> oh no, we can go a little more. [applause] >> well, the president is here. he has a lot of power over the theater, i'm sure. you guys on top wait, i'm coming down the other way. hello. >> the third question comes from samantha fletcher who is a second-year law student, >> as leader of the native american lawyers association at stanford, it's an honor to meet you at the best advocate for native american rights on
the supreme court . >> thank you. >>. >> i think a large part of your insight stems from having visited indian reservations as well as your shared experience as a woman of color from a minority background in your opinion, how does this interaction diverse cultures and realities help better inform the law? how should we lawyers seek to educate ourselves on these issues? >> i, i person of color. and i thought i knew a lot about different cultures. what i when i got to the supreme court i had a native american friend who i adore, he was a law school classmate and he came to me and he said you know sonja, it's been eons since a justice visited any of the tribes. and it happened to be sandra day o'connor and steve breyer and they had gone on a tourof some tribal courts .
and that had been the only justice for justices who had ever interacted directly with native american tribes. and he said they feel like they're marginalized in our culture. and it would be nice if a justice showed interest in them. and so i said okay, i'll go. >> and as with anybody who asked me to do something, i make them work too. >> and it's a really key to success in life, the dean will tell you that. she invited me to the law school to look at everything she had to do. [laughter] at any rate, she invited me to the pueblos. i went. actually, he invited me to the tribes generally but we decided on the pueblos cause a lot of the tribes who are
american history have been relocated and the pueblos are the only indigenous or not the only but most of the only indigenous populations in the unitedstates . and they educated me, i got lots of books. i had conferences with them and they started to explain more about their culture to me. it's like anything that we do in life. you don't have any natural affiliation with anyone. you don't have any natural knowledge of anyone else's life. you have to take the time to learn. and that's all i did was take the time to learn. i don't see myself as an advocate of anyone on the court. i see myself as an advocate of doing justice and of getting people involved and inspired to do more to build up our communities. but my interest is in all
people, because we all have valuesand to me , the native american connection to the land and to their home is deeply, deeply meaningful. and it moved me. as it would move i think most people in this audience. >> because it's a spiritual response that's rich and empowering. we can learn a lot from paying more attention to our native americans brothers and sisters. because they have interacted within their own lands and within their own communities in a way most of us have lost touch with. and so for me, that's something that everyone should do.
but particularly lawyers. because we are representing everyone. we are asked to intercede in every problem society has. >> we are asked to find solutions, we are asked to help people findtheir solutions . and you can only do that as with what i started with in the beginning by taking the time to understand them first. >> so don't give up. >> there's plenty of people out there trying to do what you're doing. >>. [applause] >> go to the other side and you might ask me to go to the
other side so we are officially three minutes away from what is supposed to be the ending point, the justice said she would stay a few more minutes but maybe we could have a robust round of applause at the end rather than any interim with would be maybe get some more student questions so josh? >> i can be shorter but i does some talking. >> josh desanto's is the next question. >>
bridging that gap to people that are close to you but who may not have gone to both princeton and yelled back. >> that's most people. [laughing] >> it's always a problem. i have often talked about living in two worlds. i'm a member of a lot of different worlds but i don't feel at home completely, completely at home in any of them. you know, i told the story of when i was a prosecutor going to a witness his home in the projects. and as i was sitting in a chair there was a cockroach crawling up the side of a lamp, and it freaked me out so much i had to sort of in the interview and leave real quick. i grew up with rodents, you know? they should not have freaked me out. but seven years in princeton and that yale, and resources to take
myself out of that kind of community had changed me. and to be frank with you, i might be able to survive in that environment but i choose not to. i wish that i could take them out of that environment. i don't have a driving need to want to be there myself so there is a difference that i can't get over. so how do i stay connected? it's true for everyone involved in a public job, whether it's on the courts where you are separated from society because you can't involve yourself in political issues, and shouldn't, or you are a politician who is segregated from the community in many ways, okay? how many of you have forgotten
president bush going to the supermarket and being surprised by this scanner? [laughing] all right. i felt badly for him. [laughing] because i understood he doesn't go to supermarkets, neither does any other president. the point is that the only way that you can try to stay connected is to reach out and go back to those communities and be in those communities as much as you can. and that's what i tried to do. i visit community centers, schools, public and private, in all kinds of neighborhoods, which and poor. i don't limit myself. i go to mental health medical facilities. i tried to reach out to as as first the group of people and
experiences that i humanly can. now, today i spend the day really talking with but at you come have a conservation with 2000 people to impossible. but in a lot of the settings in listening to what's moving people, what they're doing, what the issues are that concerned them, i learn. and it is the only way that anyone who was moved from their home environment can stay connected. now, i've often been asked what i think my greatest accomplishment in life has been. and i think that it's i have not traveled by road to success alone. my family has been beside me every step of the way. every member of my family has visited every institution i have inhabited. my mother, my cousins, my
grandmother when she was still alive had visited mike grammar schools, high schools, by colleges, my law school. they all came to my inductions at the white house, not the induction but the ceremony at the white house, and the inductions at the court. and i found my aunt in the white house bathroom stuffing her pocketbook with the white house stamped napkins -- [laughing] [applause] and coffee cup, the cardboard cup coffee cups and i looked her and i said, -- and sheila to meet said. [speaking spanish] a are not going to notice. [laughing] and i walked away shaking my head.
i learned a lesson last year. i was at the white house christmas party and at the end it was two years ago, not last year, and at the end of his speech the president after he welcomed everybody to the party said, now go out, have a good time, leave the similar but take the napkins. [laughing] we know everybody dies. [laughing] -- everybody does. the moral of that lesson, i learned that my family is no different than everybody else. [laughing] [applause] and that's how we stay connected. i encourage students in every institution, and sometimes the get moved far, if you come from the east coast by the west coast or vice a versa to go to school, it's going to be harder for your family to come here, but you have resources today that i didn't have when i was in school. you have skyping, and there's
nothing wrong walking around and having a friends skype with your parents and introduce them through skyping. there's nothing wrong in talking to your parents about what you experience. now, sometimes the reactions may not be what you want, and that's okay, too. because sometimes you look at you and say don't be silly. when you don't feel silly because you feel badly, you know? might even just the act of including them i have always found that over time they will come back to it and engage with you. i know that sometimes i say things to my mother about something that is certainly and she doesn't quite know how to respond and she doesn't respond very well, and then a month later she will say something that made me know that she heard
me. and so that's the only way i have found to stay connected. you are them, they are you. even if you try you can never get rid of them forever. [laughing] [applause] >> thank you. >> i'm going to have one of these so what if you ask the next question and i'll take a picture and maybe i can -- >> one more, is that what you're saying? >> no, no. >> given what i've been told about your time, maybe one more question. [applause] >> and lodging will not contradict a supreme court justice, i promise you. next question. she needs a microphone i think.
>> as a latina, could you speak to any personal experiences you've had with the discrimination whether socially, academically or professionally? >> okay here my book is full of them. [laughing] look, discrimination comes in many, many different forms. as for many, many different reasons. sometimes it's intentional, sometimes it's not. sometimes it's not leslie, and other times it's purposely. and you're going to find it in very different ways, some subtle, some not-so-subtle, okay? so i tell people about the security officer in the
courthouse who as i was parking my car one day said to me, honey, put it over there. now, i can assure you that in his years as a security officer in our building he never called a male judge honey, okay? i could put my last dollar on that, all right? i stopped, i thought to myself, what do i do about this? i can go call your supervisor and it's going to getting in trouble, but i thought about why he did it, and i realize that i am a very friendly person. i say hello to people. i shake their hands. [laughing] i hugged them, you know? [laughing] he felt comfortable with me. he did it unthinkingly, and if i reported him and made it a big deal, it would be a bigger deal than it warranted, so what did i
do? thought quickly and i looked at him and i said, you know, i know you meant it out of affection for me and liking me, but you know, if somebody hears of that, you calling me honey, they are going to think the worst thing possible. so why don't we stick to judge? [laughing] it worked. [laughing] i hope he wasn't too embarrassed. embarrassed. i don't think he was, and we stayed friends. i was in a meeting as a young lawyer in private practice. there were a ten man and one, me. at the early parts of my career that was true a lot, less true with time. and one of the men in the room look to meet said can you get us coffee?
and i sat there pondering, what do i do? and thankfully my supervisor, a deep, deep friend, turned around and said to the person, no, she's a lawyer. i'll call and order coffee. and he got up and called and ordered. lesson number one, you don't always have to be the person who does something about it. and people of goodwill have an obligation in those situations to do something about things that are done wrong. [applause] >> number three, i was a law student, one of my dearest friends invited me to a law firm dinner. they were recruiting at the law school, and he invited a bunch
of his friends like they had directed him to do, and i sat there and he went around the table introducing all of us and telling the partner about our background. it introduced me as sonia sotomayor, a graduate of princeton who had come from the south bronx and was doing whatever i was doing at the time. and everybody got introduced, and the partners sitting across from me look to meet said, did you get into yale because of affirmative action? he had not seen my resume yet. [laughing] >> and i looked at him and i said, it might have helped, but it also think graduating summa cum laude phi beta kappa at princeton with its highest academic honor had a little bit to do with it, too.
[applause] and we spent a few minutes talking about that, about the positives and negatives of affirmative action. and i left and i went at a talked to some of my friends. and after talking to them i filed a complaint. why? i'm not a bomb thrower, never was, never have been. i like to talk about being the person that would use the protest outside to my advantage to negotiate with the schools i was a part of, and my negotiations were usually more successful because of the kids who were willing to protest, okay? but i realized he had done that to me, and that others probably had done it to a lot of people
of color in interviews, and that wasn't the place to have that conversation. it is a very critical societal issue, but an interview is not the place that you talk about that. and you certainly don't talk about it if you look at someone's resume and you don't think they are qualified, don't hire them. if you think they are qualified and then don't assume they are not. and so for me making a public statement about that situation was necessary. and i was the best person to do it, because i had the credentials that showed my qualifications. and so, yes, and even to this day being nominated to the supreme court, there were people
who said i wasn't smart enough, i wasn't good enough, i would never author a decision that would be meaningful or noteworthy. one of the people who said that has since publicly apologized, pointing to certain decisions he thinks proved him wrong. but my point is that discrimination will always exist, and it will exist in so many different ways and so many different forms, and there is no one answer to what you do in any particular situation. you use your judgment. do something, but try to figure out what's appropriate for that situation, and what are the reasons you are doing it. the one reason it should never be, that you believe what they say to you is meaningful.
it tells you nothing about you. it tells me a lot about them, okay? [applause] >> and that's how i've come to live and learn with the discrimination that i felt and continue to feel. i wish i could make your life easier by saying you won't face it. you will. but you will be the stronger for it. you will. >> let's make it clear, you are in charge. [laughing] one more question. i would love to lure you back on stage and give you a small gift and give you a proper thank you. >> all right. >> one more question, thank you. >> i will. i will come down this way. so who's of the last question?
>> the school of medicine. >> i like to know what aspects of your earlier career training you think most prepared you for your service as supreme court justice? >> nothing and everything. nothing in particular repairs you for a job as big as this one. i was a judge for 17 years. this kind of judging is different. you know, a lot of what a judge does on trial court, on the appellate court, outside of the supreme court is a little bit more routine. it's directly controlled by precedent. you have easier answers because
you're just extrapolating them what was or has been. when you're on the supreme court we only take cases when there's a circuit split. that means there's 13 circuits in the united states take the states are divided among them, and they are disagreeing on the answer to a legal question. and it's usually a disagreement that steeper than one, to one, because we let it perk up a little while to see what the courts are saying. and, in fact, as some of those perks the issues starte start t, what really is important in this legal question. but because there is a split, you already know that reasonable judges across the country have found it hard to answer the question. they are not agreeing. and so this is the hardest
judging job there is, because every single case we get is hard. you can read in our opinions, and we are very good lawyers, and when we write our opinions you wonder why that stupid judge below got it wrong. that's what most people think, okay? but it's not true, they weren't stupid. there's always a -- another question that makes the issues of the supreme court hard. so if nothing in particular prepared you for this, what does in some way or other? i think having varied life experiences, both as a lawyer and for me, as a judge, having been a prosecutor, having done commercial litigation, having been a trial judge, a circuit
court judge, all of those experiences gave me lessons about life and the law, its impact on people, how people interact with the law, all of that is what helped me become a justice. you know, people ask me what are you, how does it feel to be a latina justice? and aye, i'm not just a latina justice. that doesn't define who i am. sonia is made up of countless life experiences, and some that you won't expect, you know, represented ferrari, all right? most of you wouldn't think they were economically challenged, okay? i had a great time doing it. i like nascar's.
[laughing] but my point is that who i am is more than one experience. i am my own meld of who i've become. you will be your own meld of who you are from those experiences you pursue. and in the end, what prepares you for anything is taking the opportunity every single day to do what i do at the end of my night. i lay back and ask myself to questions before i fall asleep. what did i learn new today? and if i haven't i wake up because i frustrate myself and a look at one of the many articles that are on my kindle list that i have not read. and the second question is, what act of giving did i do today?
and f i haven't because there are days that i go into the office and i sit at my chair and all i'm doing is during at the computer and drafting or reading briefs or doing something else and it's 11 o'clock at night and i go home, grab something to eat and i lay down and realize i have interacted with anybody, except the machine, and i get up and i go send an e-mail to someone i know who i love who s sick, or i reach out to someone who wrote to me to do something and i said yes, because i feel guilty. [laughing] guilt is a good motivator by the way. to do the right thing. and i think that that's really how, the only way i know how to live life in a meaningful way. and to become who you are and to do the work you want to do is to
be open enough to both want to learn and to give at the same time. so do both and you will be prepared to be a justice, okay? [applause] >> that it. that's it right there. thank you. [applause] >> all right, mr. president, if they give her a bill you better pay it. [laughing] [applause] >> we were not able to get to all the questions, i'm sorry about that, but but i think wee all had an extraordinary
experience. i heard a nasty rumor, justice sotomayor, that the dean of berkeley law school tried to get you to choose between berkeley and stanford. [laughing] and unlikely to put you to that choice because i know you love both. >> exactly. >> i think of a supreme court justice as the ultimate law nerd job come and we are very proud of being all sorts of different nerds. [applause] >> so here is a small bit of stanford swag, which is fear the nerds. [laughing] and that you should nerd up. [applause] [cheers and applause]
>> all the time i grew up being a nerd, i had glasses this thick. [laughing] i was called names by my friends for being a computer had. take pride in being nerds. [cheers and applause] [applause] >> we are so grateful. [applause] >> c-span where history unfolds a daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable-television companies and is brought to you today by your
cable or satellite provider. >> with the u.s. senate in recess for its july for the break booktv in prime time is on c-span2 each night this week. tonight language and communication. >> now a discussion on humanitarian crisis in south sudan and efforts to aid the african country to build peace there from the center for strategic and international studies in washington, this is one hour.