Sotomayor sees good in colleagues despite differences

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Tuesday that even though her views often differ from her colleagues’, she realizes “there’s good in every one of them.”

The 67-year-old justice spoke to a crowd of around 3,000 students, faculty and staff at Washington University in St. Louis. Sotomayor didn’t deliver a speech but answered questions from Chancellor Andrew D. Martin and from students.

Sotomayor’s appearance came amid hearings on the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would become the first Black female Supreme Court justice. Sotomayor didn’t address the process and there were no questions about Jackson.

But the issue of political polarization came up, prompting a long sigh from Sotomayor.

“There’s a lot of screaming between people,” she said, drawing laughs when she said she often has different views than some of her colleagues, “probably the majority right now.” Conservatives outnumber liberals on the court 6-3, with one of the liberals, Stephen Breyer, set to retire.

Sotomayor harkened back to lessons learned from her mother, who died in July and taught her to find and bring out the best in people.

“I try very, very hard to see the good in them, because there’s good in every one of them,” she said.

Sotomayor. the court’s first Latina justice, was nominated by President Barack Obama and has served on the Supreme Court since 2009. She rarely speaks in public but appeared at ease during her St. Louis appearance, walking among the crowd, sometimes shaking hands or offering a pat on the shoulder as she answered questions.

Sotomayor’s comments came a day after Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney announced that they would vote to confirm Jackson, all but assuring President Joe Biden’s nominee will reach the historic milestone. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said last week that she would back Jackson, who would become the sixth female justice in the court’s more than 200-year history.

Though not directly addressing Jackson’s nomination, Sotomayor recalled navigating her own nomination.

“When I was being nominated, people said I wasn’t smart enough to be on the Supreme Court,” Sotomayor, a graduate of Princeton and Yale Law School. “It felt like, ’What’s enough, and when is it enough?”

She offered advice for those who encounter racism.

“You have to be part of what educates them,” she said. “You have to be part of what talks with them and brings out from them the best in themselves in order for them to listen to what you’re trying to say.”