Sotomayor has become a 'celebrity justice'

By Kimberly Atkins

The Daily Record Newswire

Justice Sonia Sotomayor already made history by becoming the Supreme Court's first Latina justice.

But in less than two years on the bench, she has been setting precedent in another way - by speaking frequently and candidly at events across the country, demonstrating her ability to have fun, and developing a following that has made her one if the Court's most well-known jurists.

In her official capacity, she's no shrinking violet, notes Bloomberg News' Greg Stohr.

In her written opinions, she has spoken out in opinions and dissents in cases involving issues like prisoners rights and the death penalty. During oral arguments she is vocal as well.

In one recent case, she interjected 31 times, Stohr noted.

But she has also made her voice heard off the bench, making appearances at schools, public speaking engagements and law school moot court competitions, often speaking candidly about her own experiences.

''Almost everything I've done I've been frightened about, including being a Supreme Court justice,'' she recently told a crowd at the University of Chicago Law School.

At a recent US Berkeley law moot court competition, she said: ''I do moot courts because, every once in a while, I need an injection of hope.''

Though she hasn't been on the Court long, a Findlaw.com poll found that she is better known than all but two justices: Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas.

And while several other justices also make frequent public appearances at moot court competitions and speaking engagements, Sotomayor's celebrity justice status has been bolstered by hobnobbing with celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and salsa dancing in public. She can't even have dinner with a colleague without the press taking note.

Sotomayor seems to be embracing her public persona.

''I think it's important for the judge to be out in the world,'' she said.

Published: Thu, Feb 10, 2011

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