Sotomayor Says She’s ‘Traumatized’ By Not Winning More

[Fred Schilling, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

In a conversation with students earlier in the week, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that the conservative control over the nation’s top court is “traumatizing” her. 

She has served as a reliably liberal justice since being appointed to the court by Barack Obama in 2009.

CNN reported that “the wise Latina” does not handle losing cases where “creating change” does not get to trump the law. 

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor opened up on Monday about the “frustration” she said she experiences daily as the high court’s conservative supermajority continues to move the country further to the right.

“I live in frustration. And as you heard, every loss truly traumatizes me in my stomach and in my heart. But I have to get up the next morning and keep on fighting,” Sotomayor, the court’s senior liberal member, said at an event at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

“How can you look at those people and say that you’re entitled to despair? You’re not. I’m not,” she said, responding to a question from the school’s dean about how students there increasingly feel discouraged by the current court and how it’s shaping American law. “Change never happens on its own. Change happens because people care about moving the arc of the universe toward justice, and it can take time and it can take frustration.”

The comments from Sotomayor come as the majority-conservative high court is poised to issue rulings on a number of contentious issues, including gun rights and the power of federal agencies. The court’s liberal members have found themselves on the losing side of numerous blockbuster cases in recent years after former President Donald Trump appointed three conservatives justices, and Sotomayor has often publicly bemoaned her colleagues’ decisions in those matters.

The Court has been busy over the past year. 

According to The Daily Caller, “Sotomayor noted the court’s calendar is especially busy this year, saying she’s ‘working harder’ than she had before under the current caseload and, at “almost 70 years old,’ finds the work demanding, according to Bloomberg Law. This term, the Supreme Court will have to rule on cases dealing with Trump’s ballot eligibility, abortion, social media censorship, the administrative state and the Second Amendment.

‘Cases are bigger. They’re more demanding. The number of amici are greater, and you know that our emergency calendar is so much more active. I’m tired,’ she said, according to Bloomberg Law. ‘There used to be a time when we had a good chunk of the summer break. Not any more. The emergency calendar is busy almost on a weekly basis.’

The Supreme Court’s emergency docket has been busy in recent weeks with issues like the Biden administration’s request to allow border patrol to remove Texas’ border wire, which the Supreme Court granted 5-4, and an Alabama inmate’s bid to stop his execution using an untested method, which the Court declined over the objections of the three liberal justices. On Friday, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed an emergency petition asking the justices to halt West Point’s race-based admissions policy.”

Sotomayor began no longer using “I respectfully dissent” in some of her opinions in 2023, replacing it with “I dissent.” She grew especially angry at a ruling that stated that the state could not force a baker into making a cake to celebrate same-sex marriages and another that prevented Harvard from discriminating against Asian students. 

Mike Davis, a court watcher and founder of the Article III Project, told The Washington Times that liberals on the Court “feel embattled.” 

“I do sense there’s more tension than normal, and I think it’s because the three Democratic appointees kind of feel desperate. They feel it’s 6-3. Sometimes they can pick off [Justice Brett M.] Kavanaugh and the chief, but they’re going to be in the minority for probably the rest of their lives.”

Vin M. Bonventre, a professor at Albany Law School, told the newspaper that Justice Sotomayor and her two fellow Democratic appointees, Justices Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson, feel frustrated over the power that the Republican-appointed justices wield.

“The liberals on the court are so upset with the fact that they see this conservative Republican supermajority that’s basically running away with constitutional rulings and there’s just nothing the liberals can do about it,” he said. “Of course, the liberals are voting as a bloc too. They’re just as ideologically blind.”

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