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Steffie Corcoran, Editor
Photo by JOHN JERNIGAN
A Justice for All
By Steffie Corcoran
September 18, 2014
Anybody a virtual ledger-keeper? You know, the type who mentally ticks off the good (integrity, courage, authenticity), the bad (avarice, power plays, meanness), and the ugly (unchecked ego, self-promotion, dishonesty) in every encounter and situation?
Truth be told, my favorite critiques are those that score an A+ in every category with extra credit for inspiration. Lucky me, then, to have driven to Norman with associate editor Karlie Tipton last week to see U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speak to an audience of about three hundred mostly OU law students and professors.
Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
To say Sotomayor is crazy smart and eloquent, particularly on legal and justice issues, is a no-brainer. Her journey from the Bronx projects to the highest levels of achievement at Ivy League universities to wildly successful careers at firms and on various benches, ultimately the Supreme Court, would inspire even a cretin.
Even more impressive was the woman beyond the robes, one of the few among the assemblage not wearing the widely held uniform of appropriate courtroom attire—a conservative business suit. Instead, she was dressed in a way that precisely reflected her comfortable, casual, easy-to-the-bones persona: black slacks, flats with a small decorative bow, and a zebra-striped knit top with a black T-shirt underneath.
After approximately three minutes of prefatory remarks about her love of the law and the honor and dignity inherent in a field that not only helps people but has within its code of ethics requirements for pro bono work, she announced that she was ready for questions and answers and rose from her chair.
“If you practice with integrity, it will bring you much richness,” she said.
Her joy and enthusiasm was obvious even before she left the podium to meander around the maroon-draped art deco magnificence of the Bell Courtroom. As law students—a carefully curated mix of first-, second-, and third-years—were asking questions, Justice Sotomayor moved among the long, crowded aisles to sit with, and in some cases practically on, members of the student section. She insisted she would find a way to pose for a picture with everyone who asked her a question and did so, even if she had to climb over and around a row of well-suited and shod twenty-somethings to do it. More than once, she shared a seat with a starry-eyed soon-to-be attorney and frequently perched on the chair arm between two others. Rarely have I seen a large group of young people of one so adoring an accord.
After an hour of Q&A and interaction, including two commandments to the faculty to put students up front and themselves in the back in the future, Sotomayor, still smiling and flanked by OU President David Boren and College of Law dean Joseph Harroz Jr., left the building.
“That was the most amazing experience of my life!” said a young man to my left. There was a discernible collective buzz of brushed-by-awesomeness in the air.
Sotomayor’s first foray into the crowd was in the empty seat by Karlie, next to me. What can I tell you about that other than that there was electricity, and the aroma of expensive perfume, in Justice Sotomayor’s wake? Who, in her lifetime, finds herself two-and-a-half-feet away from one of nine people in the world who are the final word on issues of life-changing justice?
Justice Sotomayor at OU: A+++.