During a rare interview with Red Table Talk: The Estefans, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talked about a variety of topics–from her nomination to the highest court by President Barack Obama to how she views the difference between justice and the law.
Red Table Talk: The Estefans is hosted by Grammy winner Gloria Estefan, her daughter and musician Emily Estefan and her niece and Daytime Emmy Award winner Lili Estefan.
During their conversation, Sotomayor, who was the first Latina judge ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, told the story about how Obama chose her for the SCOTUS seat in 2009.
“I didn’t actually believe that President Obama was going to pick me,” Sotomayor told the Estefans. “Everyone else that was on his shortlist had been interviewed. I wasn’t being interviewed. I thought, ‘Gee, maybe I’m just there for show.’ All of a sudden, my cell phone rings.”
On the other end of the call was a woman with the White House switchboard. “[She] says, ‘Please hold for the President,’” Sotomayor recalls. “At that moment, my heart started to thump. And within seconds, the President of the United States gets on and says, ‘I have decided that I would like you to be my nominee to the United States Supreme Court.’”
As a U.S. Supreme Court Justice for the last 11 years, Sotomayor has heard a variety of cases ranging from abortion to first amendment rights to employment discrimination. She explains that justice and the law, contrary to popular belief, are not the same thing. She considers separating the two the “hardest part” of her job.
“The law is not picking sides and not choosing who to help or not help,” Sotomayor says. “That misperception is what makes so many people suspicious about the law, and suspicious about its value. I think most people think of justice as fairness…we decide issues according to what the law is and that’s a very different process.”