Justice Is Swift—and in a Hurry

Inaugural_Swearing_In_t620If Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor has a fan club, you could have found its members on Saturday afternoon at El Museo del Barrio on Fifth Avenue and 104th Street.

Ms. Sotomayor was in town to promote her new book, My Beloved World, a candid memoir about her path from a childhood in the Bronx as the daughter of first-generation Puerto Rican transplants to being appointed to the Supreme Court. The book is an intimate look at Ms. Sotomayor’s youth—battling Type 1 diabetes, her father’s alcoholism and early death, poverty and language barriers—and her early adulthood at Princeton and then Yale Law.

U.S. marshals gave the attendees a once-over while they waited in a line that stretched nearly around the block, before opening the 600-seat auditorium.

Journalist Maria Hinojosa, the moderator for the event, received cheers when she appeared. But Ms. Sotomayor, who strode onto the stage in a royal blue dress and jacket, got a standing ovation.

Ms. Hinojosa began the interview by asking Ms. Sotomayor about her Puerto Rican identity.“It’s my heart and my soul,” the Supreme Court justice said.

Ms. Sotomayor slipped into Spanish throughout the nearly hour-and-a-half interview, which always proved to be a crowd pleaser. She touched on the need for diversity in media, refused to take the bait on undocumented immigrants, and spoke of the importance of exercise to “lift the spirits” (salsa dancing counts, she noted, but needs to be done more often) and the tragedy of closing Catholic schools, including the one that Ms. Sotomayor attended in the Bronx.

“When I was a kid, I didn’t even know there was a Supreme Court,” Ms. Sotomayor said, explaining that a “dream job” is something you can imagine, and so her job now had not even been in that realm.

Running short on time, Ms. Hinojosa read through some of the questions audience members had submitted on cue cards. Ms. Sotomayor answered in an impromptu lightning round.

What’s a Latina feminist? “Someone who is ‘tough as nails.’”

Life/work balance? “All of life is choices.”

Would Ms. Sotomayor recommend law school? “Law is the noblest profession.”

Favorite Yankee? “Bernie Williams.”

Most surprising thing about getting to know the president? “He is so tall.”

After proclaiming that she likes to best her own records, Ms. Sotomayor said she would sign more than 600 books. The line stretched outside along Fifth Avenue. Ms. Sotomayor shook hands and inscribed books, but she was in something of a rush.

Her publicity tour for the book had been planned before she was asked to administer the vice president’s official oath of office, which had to be done the next day. Mr. Biden moved his official swearing-in ceremony to 8 a.m. on Sunday morning at the Naval Observatory, to accommodate Ms. Sotomayor’s busy schedule. After all, the Supreme Court justice had to come back to New York for another book signing, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble on Sunday afternoon. Then she was back in D.C. on Monday to administer a second, ceremonial oath of office to Mr. Biden.

In book publishing, that’s what you call a platform