American Morning

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July 13th, 2009
10:12 AM ET

Growing up Sotomayor

Senators want to learn everything about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor during her confirmation hearing. Her brother Juan remembers learning very early – his sister loves the law.

To explain, he walked us down memory lane in the Bronx where they grew up in a public housing project.

In the sixties, when Juan and his sister Sonia were growing up, she wasn't interested in watching “The Munsters” or “Bewitched.”

“My sister forced me to watch ‘Perry Mason’ and ‘Judd for the Defense.’…She knew she was going to be a lawyer,” says Dr. Juan Sotomayor.

They were big dreams for the inner-city girl whose parents were immigrants from Puerto Rico. The children lost their father when Sonia was nine. Their mother, who eventually became a nurse, was a strong believer in education.

“My mom knew that education was the essence of realizing your dreams, getting out of your situation, and moving ahead,” says Juan.

Sotomayor worked hard – earning top marks as early as elementary school – sharpening her skills at helping her brother deal with neighborhood thugs. “My sister always used to have to come over and diffuse situations… She negotiated.”

Her brother says she's ready for Washington and any tough questions senators may have about issues such as gun control or abortion. “She’ll handle it the way she sees fit. She is her own person.”

Since her nomination, critics have questioned her intellectual depth. Some called her a racist, citing a speech she gave in 2001 as an appeals court judge, saying “A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

“We were raised to treat everyone equally, no matter what color, no matter what race,” says her brother.

Juan Sotomayor says his conversations with his sister focus on family and talking about growing up together – like at the Catholic school they attended or the job at Zaros Bakery where they worked as teenagers. He says his sister worked so hard it was a tough act to follow. But it taught him something else.

“I decided right then and there I would never follow in her footsteps again.”

And he did not follow in her footsteps. Instead of a career in law, he chose the medical profession and became a doctor. He will be at his sister's side in Washington for the confirmation hearings just in case she needs some moral support from her little brother.

Filed under: Supreme Court
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Bernice

    Hats off to you, Charles! They all nered to pull out the gloves and start asking the tough questions!! We do not need a racist in supreme court re-writing the law to fit her fancy! I feel America as we know it .....slipping away! It will be a bad day in history if she get confirmed! Mark my words! Everything done by this administration has been quite shady! And the lies!!! They will end up taking our guns, leaving you with NO WAY to protect yourselves or your families! That is just for starters! I have fear for my country!

    July 14, 2009 at 8:06 am |
  2. Charles L Morse Sr

    Bothers me that the democrats have in so many words yesterday have said they will not ask Sotomayor tough questions. Republicans in so many words have said they will . I think both parties should stop the games and both ask tough questions of her . I'M not aginst her or for her yet . But we all need to know what she is made of and what she knows , agree's with and not with in the constitution . We can't have two parties playing politic on a life time appointment . I don't care what party you vote or like . EGNORANCE of her position hurts all.

    July 14, 2009 at 4:38 am |