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Brooklyn Law School hosts Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

April 12, 2016 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From left: Hon. Andrew Napolitano, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Brooklyn Law School President and Dean Nick Allard. Photos by Joe Vericker/PhotoBureau.

Brooklyn Law School (BLS) hosted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor for a special Q&A session with BLS Dean Nick Allard and Fox News legal correspondent Hon. Andrew Napolitano in front of more than 800 students, faculty and alumni at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights on Friday, April 8.

“We gather in this historic place of worship not for prayer, but to engage in the kind of public discourse that should not be as scarce as it is today,” Allard said in his introduction of the justice. “Tonight we look forward to a civil, intelligent, lively conversation with one of the most respected and remarkable people ever to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Sotomayor has become somewhat of a frequent speaker at BLS. She once gave a commencement speech and she received an honorary degree during a two of her recent trips. At Friday’s event, Sotomayor seemed at ease as she left the stage, walked among the students and occasionally stopped to greet them as she took questions from Allard and Napolitano.

Sotomayor had a lot of praise for the school itself, specifically for its quality students and diverse faculty. Of the school’s alumni, she said, “They care about you. They do everything in their power to make sure that you’re following your passions in life.” She also mentioned Sparkle Sooknanan, who graduated from BLS in 2010 and served as Sotomayor’s law clerk in the Supreme Court.

Sotomayor, Allard and Napolitano avoided discussion of Merrick Garland, whom President Barack Obama has nominated to replace the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Instead they discussed various topics including diversity on the court, writing styles and Sotomayor’s own nomination process.

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On the topic of diversity, Sotomayor noted that she would like to see the Supreme Court be more diverse when it comes to ethnicity and professional backgrounds.

“There is a disadvantage from having five Catholics, three Jews, everyone from an Ivy League school,” she said. “Is diversity in life experience important? Yes. The law is going to be what the law is; but a different perspective can permit you to more fully understand the arguments that are before you and help you articulate your position in a way that everyone will understand. I’m glad the president picked me, but I would have understood completely if he had chosen someone else, someone with a different background.”

Sotomayor also responded to questions from students, via Dean Allard and Judge Napolitano, about her writing style and how it differs between writing legal decisions versus writing her memoir.

“They are two different worlds,” Sotomayor said. “Writing my memoir was storytelling. Storytelling is an entirely different animal than legal writing. If you read the preface to my book, you’ll see I warn my law clerks that I break just about every writing rule there is. You will never read a decision by me that contains a contraction. It is important when writing opinions to use good English and to write in a proper way. In my memoir, I told my stories.

Allard attended law school at Princeton with Sotomayor where both worked in the school’s dining halls, and he let on that he can salsa dance as well as her. Allard wrapped up the event by thanking Justice Sotomayor and praising BLS.

“We all are profoundly grateful for Justice Sotomayor’s insights, encouragement and inspiring words,” Allard said. “Her presence with us underscores that our great law school is in the forefront of legal education, and that Brooklyn Law School is becoming increasingly known for what it always has been, a center for learning how to use law in the service of people and society, at home and abroad.”

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