Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Credit: Jason Doiy/ ALM

Like many Connecticut residents, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has family members whose lives have been rocked by weather-related losses in Puerto Rico. So the tempest of controversy surrounding the nomination of the court’s newest associate justice, Brett Kavanaugh, has been, in context, a less painful experience.

Sotomayor said Brett Kavanaugh has been greeted with the traditional “welcoming for a new member of our court,” adding that members of the court “are going to let these times pass,” an apparent reference to his stormy confirmation process.

The interview with Univision was part of Sotomayor’s publicity for “Turning Pages,” her newly published children’s book highlighting her childhood love of reading. Born in New York of Puerto Rican parents, Sotomayor spoke Spanish in the conversation with anchor Ilia Calderón.

“Among colleagues, there is always a welcoming for a new member of our court. We need to work with him, and we are going start our new family, and work together,” Sotomayor said of Kavanaugh. “We are going to let these times pass.”

Recalling the difficulties of her own beginning at the Supreme Court in 2009, Sotomayor said it was “very complicated. The biggest difficulty after being a judge on two previous courts, arriving at the Supreme Court, the expectation of others that because I was Latina I lacked the intelligence to do this job. During the confirmation period there were a lot of people that said as much. There are a lot of them who have since changed their mind.”

Sotomayor joined the Supreme Court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where she had served since 1998. She was confirmed 68-31 in 2009, and became the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice.

Asked about the government’s response to the damage done in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria last year, Sotomayor said that as a justice she is not supposed to “speak on politics, but that question I will answer: no.” She added, “Puerto Rico still needs a lot of help. The richness of the island is its beauty, which we have to work to rebuild again, but we need a lot of help to do it, and it is not being received. I feel this deeply.”

The U.S. response to Maria’s devastation has become a political flash point, with critics of the Trump administration saying the government did not do enough on the preparation and response fronts. The deaths of nearly 3,000 residents have been attributed to the storm, which hit the U.S. territory in September 2017. President Donald Trump has disputed the scope of the death toll.

Sotomayor said last month that one of her relatives—the uncle of a cousin—was on a ventilator when the island lost power. Sotomayor said the relative was “struggling to breathe for eight days.”

“Regrettably, I wasn’t quite accepting of the 64 person number because, not just my family, but many, many families in Puerto Rico experienced losses attributable to that storm,” Sotomayor said.

Calderón, the Univision reporter, also asked Sotomayor about feminism and whether women who are working mothers will always have to “do it all.” Sotomayor replied: “Forever. This entire life. Many young women ask me, is it possible to do everything, and I say yes, but not all at the same time. There are sacrifices that need to be made, there are moments when they can’t be with their children, others when they can’t be at work. One needs to accept that compromise is part of life.”

 

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