Justice Sotomayor admits she cries in her office after some Supreme Court decisions

Sotomayor described the frustration of being a liberal justice on the conservative-majority Supreme Court

Ariana Baio
Saturday 25 May 2024 15:58 BST
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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There are days when the Supreme Court releases opinions that Justice Sonia Sotomayor goes into her office, closes the door, and cries, she said while describing the frustration of being one of three liberal justices on the court.

“There are moments when I’m deeply, deeply sad,” she told a crowd at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University on Friday – not specifying what decisions have evoked that feeling.

Justice Sotomayor, one of the three liberal justices on the court, was being honored with a Radcliffe Medal for her “commitment to excellence, inclusion, and social impact.” As part of the program, she had a public conversation with her former law school classmate where she spoke about the challenges of being on the court.

“There are moments when, yes, even I feel desperation. We all do. But you have to own it, you have to accept it, you have to shed the tears and then you have to wipe them and get up,” Justice Sotomayor said.

Over the last few years, Justice Sotomayor has found herself in the minority opinion over and over again – especially on major decisions like abortion, racial gerrymandering, criminal justice reform and LGBT+ rights.

From left to right: Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Elena Kagan
From left to right: Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Elena Kagan (AP)

In more recent decisions, Justice Sotomayor and her colleagues, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, have used their dissenting opinions to deliver scathing condemnation of the conservatives’ rationale.

Last year, Justice Sotomayor called the court’s decisions on affirmative action an “unjustified exercise of power” that “will serve only to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an American who cries for equality resound” in her dissent.

Publicly, she also expressed disappointment about the court’s opinion of various decisions.

She told students at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law earlier this year that: “every loss truly traumatizes me.”

The court is expected to deliver opinions on the safety of the abortion pill mifepristone, gun accessibility, Donald Trump’s immunity from criminal prosecution, administrative law and more in the next four weeks.

According to the New York Times, Justice Sotomayor also voiced frustration with the court’s rulings during her conversation on Friday – which could signal more conservative-majority opinions on some of the high-profile cases.

“There are days that I’ve come to my office after an announcement of a case and closed my door and cried,” she said. “There have been those days. And there are likely to be more.”

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