Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Speak to UTSA Audience on Personal Journey

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Jason Doiy / ALM

A conversation with Sonia Sotomayor at University of California Berkeley in 2017.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will address a University of Texas at San Antonio audience Thursday morning about her personal journey from a childhood in the Bronx to Ivy League degrees from Princeton and Yale, federal judgeships in New York, and, finally, to become the first Hispanic on the nation's highest court.

The event is open only to UTSA students, faculty, and staff. UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, who is hosting the event, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night about how her last-minute appearance came about or why the public isn't invited.

However, he said in an email to donors about the event, "Due to very limited seating, we are not advertising Justice Sotomayor’s talk to the local community in order to maximize the number of UTSA students who can attend."

Her appearance in San Antonio will come a day before she makes another Texas stop, to speak to law students in Houston on Friday. The Texas Lawyer reported last week that Sotomayor will speak to students and faculty at the University of Houston Law Center. According to the report, Sotomayor will appear with law dean Leonard Baynes, who will moderate a discussion with questions from law students there. As in San Antonio, the event is not open to the general public.

Nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2009, Sotomayor has been a reliably liberal voice on the Supreme Court, siding often on high-profile cases with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer.

“We are incredibly honored to host Justice Sotomayor on our campus,” Eighmy said in a statement released Monday about the justice's appearance.

“One of my strategic goals is to bring the world’s greatest minds to UTSA for the benefit of our entire community," Eighmy stated. "As a first-generation college student herself, her appearance is an exceptional opportunity for our students to learn from someone who is helping shape the future arc of our country from her seat on the highest court in the land."

Sotomayor's hour-long appearance Thursday morning at the Retama Auditorium on UTSA's main campus will be closed to the public but open to UTSA students, faculty and staff, according to the release. More details about attending the event are here.

Lisa Buentello, director of the UTSA Institute for Law and Public Affairs, was quoted in the release saying Sotomayor's visit is particularly relevant for many UTSA students because she "came from modest socioeconomic circumstances and has reached the very top of her profession through hard work and determination."

Sotomayor grew up in the Bronx, raised by a single mother after her father's death when she was 9 years old. She has talked and written movingly about her mother, Celina, who worked hard to support her children while emphasizing the value of a strong education.

Allison Shelley / Getty Images

(From left) U.S. Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg participate in an annual Women's History Month reception in the U.S. capitol building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

One of two Supreme Court justices nominated by Obama (Kagan was the other), Sotomayor came to the Supreme Court nomination with a career of legal and judicial experience. A first-generation college student, she earned her bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1976, and her law degree from Yale Law three years later, serving as an editor of the Yale Law Journal while a student there.

Sotomayor earned her early legal chops in both the public and private legal sectors, as an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office, and later, as a litigator and eventual partner at Pavia & Harcourt in Manhattan, specializing in intellectual property law.

From 1992-1998, she served as a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York, and then, from 1998-2009, as  judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

She has told her personal story often and wrote about it in her memoir, My Beloved World, published in 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf.

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