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Historic Supreme Court Appointment—Sonia Sotomayor ’79

Yale Law School graduate Sonia Sotomayor ’79 made history today when she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the 111th Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. A former federal judge, she is the first Hispanic ever to sit on the Supreme Court and the third woman. She is also the seventh Yale Law School graduate to serve. The Senate vote was 68 to 31 in favor. Sotomayor fills the seat vacated by Justice David Souter, who retired June 29.

“Yale Law School takes great pride in the historic confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor,” said Yale Law School Dean Robert Post ’77. “We are confident that Sotomayor will prove an outstanding Justice of the Supreme Court who will exemplify the fundamental values and ideals of America. She brings to her new position a deep grounding in legal institutions as well as profound life experiences that will inform her judicial perspective.”

President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor on May 26, and following four days of hearings beginning July 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination on July 28, sending it on to the full Senate. Senate debate began August 4 and ended when a vote was taken this afternoon, with all 59 Democrats and 9 Republicans backing Sotomayor.

Sotomayor’s confirmation means that three of the nine justices currently serving on the Supreme Court are Yale Law School graduates. She joins Justice Clarence Thomas ’74, who was seated in 1991, and Justice Samuel Alito ’75, who was seated in 2006.

Four Yale Law School graduates previously served on the Supreme Court—Byron White ’46, from 1962-1993; Potter Stewart ’41, from 1958-1981; Abe Fortas ’33, from 1965-1969; and Sherman Minton ’16 LL.M., from 1949-1956.

And there were four Justices who attended Yale Law School but didn't graduate—William Strong, who served from 1870-1880; George Shiras, Jr., from 1892-1903; David Davis, from 1862-1877; and Henry Brown, from 1891-1906.
She will be sworn in on Saturday, August 8, at 11 a.m. at the Supreme Court of the United States. Chief Justice John Roberts will first administer the Constitutional Oath in a private ceremony in the Justices’ Conference Room attended by members of the Sotomayor family. The Chief Justice will then administer the Judicial Oath in the East Conference Room before a small gathering of Judge Sotomayor’s family and friends. A formal investiture ceremony will take place on Tuesday, September 8, at 2 p.m. at a special sitting of the Court in the Courtroom.

Before her confirmation to the High Court, Justice Sotomayor served for eleven years as a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Prior to that, she was a U. S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York. She also served for five years as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan and later entered private practice at the law firm Pavia & Harcourt, where she progressed to partner. In addition, she was a lecturer-in-law at Columbia University Law School and an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law.

A native of the Bronx, Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and received her J.D. in 1979 from Yale Law School, where she was an editor of The Yale Law Journal and managing editor of the Yale Studies in World Public Order.

Read President Obama's remarks about Justice Sotomayor.