Sonia Sotomayor – “Just Ask!” & Life as a Supreme Court Justice | The Daily Show

It is truly an honor
to have you here on the show. And just so we’re all
on the same page ahead of time, there are certain rules when speaking
to a Supreme Court justice, especially on TV,
and a few of those are, um… I-I know that you cannot speak
about any cases, uh, or any of your colleagues or anything
that could negatively impact the institution
that is the Supreme Court. -That is correct?
-That is correct. So, I just have a few… -These-these ones.
-(laughter) This. There’s one. This one. These ones. Okay. No. These ones are… All right. Um… No, welcome to the show. Let’s begin with the book. -For… -I haven’t left you
with much, right? No, you have, you have. ‘Cause I-I want to talk
about the book, and then, you know,
after the break, it would be great
to get into the court and everything
you’ve experienced while serving on it. -Um, a children’s book…
-Yes. is not exactly
where you would expect a Supreme Court justice to be. You know, you’d expect it
to be a book about law or a book, you know, about
what’s happening in the country or life in legalese. But a children’s book
is what you wrote. Just Ask!
Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. Why? I write law every single day. -(laughs)
-And most of it… and most of it is gonna go down
in the history books. And after much time passes, uh, some people may read
one or two of those decisions. But if I can affect the lives
of children, if I can inspire them to be bigger, better, braver than they believe they can be, then I’ve left a real legacy
of my judgment. And so, for me, when I write for children
or speak to them, it’s to create that lasting gift that I hope will inspire them to do something that
they haven’t even dreamed about. -Wow.
-I’m a Supreme Court justice, and I tell kids all the time, I grew up
in a Bronx housing project. There were no lawyers
or, uh, judges in the housing projects, and I had no idea
what the Supreme Court was. I didn’t start to learn about it
probably till high school, which is about when
I started to read newspapers -like The New York Times.
-Right. Before that, in my home, we had the Daily News,
the New York Post and, um, the Spanish newspaper, which my father brought home
every day, uh, from… as he rode the train home. But, for me,
that’s what I want kids to do, to want to be more
than they can imagine. Who inspired you to be more
than you could imagine? Because here you are
in a position, highest court in the land,
inspiring the youth, but someone had to inspire you. My mother. Born in greater poverty
than I… ever existed
for me and my brother, uh, in a situation
in which her mother died when she was nine
and her father abandoned her and being raised by her older brother
and older sister. It was a tough, tough life
that she had, and she did what millions of
other young Americans have done. -She joined the army.
-Wow. During World War II,
and she came over to the states, and she ultimately met
my father, and my brother and I followed. But my mom, in her 40s,
went back– not went back– went to college and, uh, got
her registered nursing license. That is amazing.
That is amazing. -(applause)
-Wow. -So… -So, it’s really hard,
with a mother like that, not to think
education’s valuable. I can only imagine.
And in the book, it really speaks to it
because you are talking to kids from a very personal place. -Very.
-The book is called Just Ask! And what I really… what
I really love about the book is you have these stories of a group of kids
who go into a garden, and really it’s a tale
about children who may be facing difficulties
in their lives. You know, you-you have
a little child who has ADHD. You have another child
who has Tourette’s. You have Sonia,
who has diabetes. I-I wonder where that came from. -(laughs)
-And, um… and-and it’s-it’s a story
about the kids having whatever they have
to deal with, but the one obstacle
you don’t want them to face is people judging them because
of what they have to deal with. Judging them
because of their difference. Right. How did people judge you
because of your differences? Like, w-was there ever something
that happened to you where-where diabetes– -You know, it seems like
everyone just accepts that. -Oh. No. But I– They don’t. And the Just Ask! title was born over 30 years ago. When I was seven and a half, I was diagnosed with diabetes, and I started to give myself
injections of insulin every day. And, as was common back then– gratefully, less common today– you were– I was embarrassed -by my condition.
-Right. I thought it showed weakness. I thought my friends
would make fun of it. And so I hid it. And as I grew older and I took multiple shots
a day– ‘Cause, at first, it was only
one, and I did that at home. Over time, it grew to two shots and still at home,
morning and afternoon. But as I grew older, multiple shots a day
were more common and more frequently
before I ate anything. I was in a restaurant in
New York in my thir– early 30s, and I would order my meal and then go to the bathroom
to give myself my shot. This day,
I didn’t go into the stall. I stayed in the public areas because it was
a two-stall bathroom, -and there was no one there.
-Mm-hmm. As I was finishing,
a woman walked in. She saw me doing what
I was doing and finishing up, putting my injection away. And I walked out. I ate dinner, finished, walked by the woman and I overheard her say
to her companion, “She’s a drug addict.” And I stopped. And the first emotion I felt
was shame. I was mortified. And then… I thought about it for a second. And I turned around and marched
back to the woman and said, “I’m not a drug addict. “I’m a diabetic. “And that shot you saw me take “is the medicine that saves
my life every day, insulin. “And if you don’t understand “when someone’s doing something
different than you expect, “just ask. Don’t presume
the worst in people.” -And I walked away.
-Wow. -And…
-(applause) Wow. But that didn’t make me decide to disclose my diabetes
to others. Not yet. What happened a few years later is I was at a party
that I threw at my home with some of my best friends
that I have in the whole world, people who I know adore
and love me and who take care of me
in every situation. And, all of a sudden, I fell asleep on my bed. And they thought I was asleep. -I was really in a sugar low.
-Right. I was semi-unconscious. Thankfully,
someone had to, uh, shake me to ask me for the telephone
for a cab to go home. This is before Uber,
ladies and gentlemen. (laughing) And Lyft
and all those other things. At any rate, um, I struggled with trying
to remember the number, -and I couldn’t.
-Wow. But I then just sat on a stair
that was– I had– My backyard had,
um, a set of small steps, and I sat down there. Couldn’t go much further. ‘Cause that’s what
sugar lows do to you. And one of my friends walked
over with a piece of cake, and I grabbed it with my hand
and stuffed my face with it, which was
an unconscious reaction -that I needed the sugar
in the cake. -Because you knew -you needed the sugar.
-Right. Well, my friends didn’t know
what was happening, ’cause I had never told them. And so I almost died in a room
full of people who love me. And I thought about it and had a conversation
with many of them afterwards about what happened, why. And I realized that I should not hide
my condition, not only because
it was dangerous for me, but because if something
had happened to me, and my friends were there, they would never be able
to forgive themselves. Because they wouldn’t have known
something about you that could have saved your life. Exactly. And I think
it was a kindness to me and one to my friends where I then chose to become
open about my condition. And Just Ask! is encouraging friends to look at the people
in your life who do things differently,
or are differently-abled… Right. …and talk to them about it. Figure out and find out
how it affects them and how you can help and when. ‘Cause I don’t need help
all the time, but I do sometimes, and people should know that. And you should know that -about the people
you love and care about. -Wow. And so, for me, the Just Ask! is encouraging, not just the children like me -who are differently-abled…
-Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. …to speak
about their conditions, to be brave about them
in the way they are every day. -Right.
-Think about how hard it is for a dyslexic child to read. Now, they can do it, and they do it every day
that they’re in school, -but it’s a challenge for them.
-Right. And it’s important
to understand that challenge. Or Julia, who bares the name of a special
little girl in my life, who has Tourette’s syndrome. And it’s actually one of
my favorite scenes is that one. If you look in the book,
you’ll see. Uh, one of the symptoms -of Tourette’s is uncontrolled
body movements. -Right. Blinking is one of them, -but so are unexpected motions,
sometimes sounds. -Mm-hmm. And, um, Julia’s blinking, and the owl blinks back at her. But Julia had an incident
when she was smaller. She was in a, uh, store, and her Tourette’s went
into action, and she was moving
around uncontrollably. And a woman looked at her
and said, “Don’t you have a mother
that can control you?” Wow. Thankfully, she does. She has a mother
who’s a school teacher and set that lady straight. -(laughter, applause)
-Uh… uh… Oh, I love it. But… Every-every single story in the book has that feeling
of overcoming. I also love that you-you have
the book in Spanish, as well. Just Ask! es ¡Solo Pregunta! -if I’ve said that correctly.
-(applause and cheering) And the book is available now, Just Ask! I’ve-I’ve always wondered
what it is like to be on a Supreme Court,
and not just in terms of the legal part of it,
but all of the pressures that come with the job,
you know. Shaping the course of a country
and at the same time, trying to remove yourself
from the fray of what’s defining what is
happening in that country. How removed are Supreme Court
justices from the everyday fray? Like, are you just, like,
Instagram only, no Twitter? -Is that what you do?
-(laughter) I don’t do either. Um, some of my colleagues might. I won’t give them up, okay? -I’m gonna say Ruth Bader
Ginsburg. -Um, no, no, no, no. I’m saying Ruth Bader Ginsburg–
Twitter. That’s what I’m going with. I think
that would be farfetched. Um… (laughter) Every one of the nine justices were incredibly
devoted citizens, and they were very active
in our world before they became justices. Some of them were even
in the political arena. Some of them have worked
for the White House. Others… Everybody has, as one of my dear
judge friends once said to me, most judges are political,
either in the capital “P” sense or the small “P” sense. And the capital “P” is those
who have worked in politics. The small “P”
are people like me, who were involved
in nonprofit organization and other
government organization. So everyone is
an involved person. And I daresay
that every one of us is a little bit above the fray, -because we can’t comment
about the fray. -Mm-hmm. But we certainly read about
what’s happening in the world, and we stay tuned to the news. I’m not gonna say which channel. -Uh… but…
-(laughter) -She watches The Daily Show.
That, I mean… -(laughter) -that’s what…
-(cheering, applause) But no, no, no, no, no, don’t… No, no, no. No, no,
you can’t applaud, because then -it would be true. We know,
but… Sorry. -Exactly. No, let’s carry on.
Please, forgive them, Justice. I know. We know.
But carry on. But the point is that, um, we’re not monastic
in the sense of… not knowing what’s happening
in the world. So how do you then…
you know, relate to each other? -Because one thing that…
-We don’t talk about politics. That’s interesting. That’s
actually what I wanted to know, because you have…
you have nine people who have
different political leanings, who are all extremely skilled
when it comes to applying law, and oftentimes, you have
to argue against each other. So when you’re having lunch
with each other, when you’re just, you know,
in that down time, what do you talk about?
No politics. We stay away from religion
and politics, -Ah. -the two subjects
that most people who, if they don’t want to fight,
should stay away from. -Ah.
-Um, and we do. So, what do we talk about? What bad movie did we see
yesterday? (laughter) -Sometimes what good movie.
-Okay. What books we’re reading. And most of my colleagues–
myself included– love history books. And so all of us
are generally reading something that we find fun and will
recommend to the others. -Interesting.
-We talk about kids, lots of talks…
talk about grandchildren. Uh, sometimes about food. Um, any topic that any group
of friends would have that doesn’t involve
a contentious issue, -we talk about.
-Okay. Okay. So you stay away from politics and, then, the final episode
of Game of Thrones. -That makes sense.
-(laughter) The, um…
the-the-the court is constantly thrust
into the spotlight, especially in American news. Now, you know, apart from
presidents that come and go, apart from news stories
that come and go, what do you think is important
in and around, you know, a confirmation of a justice
or-or-or what do you think the most important qualities
of a judge have to be? Because it is, you know,
one of the highest positions you can possess in the land. Uh… I’m gonna answer that
differently. I’m going to answer a question
you haven’t asked but I think
is much more important. What should you possess
as a citizen? -Hmm.
-And I think that, in this roomful of people, if I ask every non-lawyer
in the room, and maybe some lawyers, how many Supreme Court decisions
have you read from beginning to end, no one will raise their hand. All the news people get is from the newspapers
or television. -The sound bite.
-Right. -You know, the headline.
-Yes. This side won. This side lost. But nobody talks
about the reasoning. Very few people do. They’ll quote a sentence here,
a sentence there. But I think if you’re gonna be
an informed person, you should really read
the decisions. Because that’s
where both sides– if there are two sides;
court agrees a lot, -so it’s not that every case
is split. -Right. But those that are,
you should read both sides. To understand
which arguments were applied -and why they were applied.
-Exactly. And I think you will think
more highly of the judges, and I think you’ll realize
something that most people… think… don’t think of. You like a decision, so you
agree with the side that won. If you don’t,
you’re gonna disagree with them. -Mm-hmm. -But unless you engage
with the arguments, you don’t understand
how hard the questions are. And the fact
that even when you win, sometimes it wasn’t so clear… that you should have. And so I think it would make
people much more respectful of the court as an institution,
but of courts generally, if they took the time
to read those decisions that they feel affect them
so deeply. Oh, that’s powerful,
but people won’t read. Um… -So my counter would be…
-But… -My counter…
-You count on that. I– Yes. No, I mean,
I… (stammering) You know, everyone would like
the idea of everyone reading, but my counter would be
what you just said. You said people get their news
from the TV -and the headlines
and the sound bites. -Mm-hmm. The Supreme Court is still only
in written and audio form, and I’m saying, like,
I could produce, like, a courtroom show, where, like,
you guys are on camera. ‘Cause I’m sure some people don’t even recognize you
in the street, and you effect the country. You could be signing autographs. (laughter) I’m not saying
I could make you famous. I’m just saying,
like, you know… I’m saying we could, like,
do you think maybe the court should jump in
to the era of, like, TV, -and broadcast
what you’re doing? -No. (laughter) You walk into our courtrooms, and we’re not made for TV. The lawyers have presented us
with briefs. Friends of the court,
called amici, a lot more briefs. The courts below have made
a decision. We start questioning lawyers. Most of the time, the audience
doesn’t understand -what we’re talking about,
-Mm-hmm. because we’re asking
from knowledge. We’re asking from the place
where we have a question after everybody’s finished
explaining everything to us. And so, what we say can
sometimes just be challenging for the sake of eliciting
a response. Sometimes,
it can be genuine doubt about what the position
of a person might be. Sometimes we’re talking
to each other, and we’re raising points
through the questions that we want our colleagues
to consider with us. Because we’re thinking
about it, and we know
we’re gonna bring it up at conference among ourselves, so it’s nice to get it out so that we can have some time
to think on it. So there’s lots of reasons
for what we’re doing, but none of them are ever
perfectly understood, often not, among the people
who are listening. And I think if our arguments
were televised, it might change the dynamic. You’re gonna get some people
who will ask less questions. We already have one person
who’s made that choice. If you want more,
I think it could happen. You would have
more studied questions, rather than those questions
which are less studied and more inquisitive,
and that we do ask and seek answers to. And we’re human beings. And the draw to play to TV effects every human being. And so I think you would change
our institution so dramatically, that it
would be for its worse, not for
the country’s betterment. Every decision we make
is written. Fully explained,
fully defended, fully laid out. But you can’t do that
and maintain a show. Now that you’ve said that,
I feel like no part of the U.S. government
should be on TV. Actually, that’s what
some senator said to me, that the partisanship
in the Senate started to grow when cameras
went into the Senate room. Because you want to appeal,
and you want to win votes, and you want–
Yeah, it makes sense. I think the public has no idea
that those Senate rooms now are completely empty. It’s the chair of the Senate, it is the senator speaking, and some members of his staff. There is no one else in the room
but the camera, and they’re speaking to the camera,
not to each other. And I know, because I was
interviewed by senators. They’re not back in
their offices listening to what’s happening on TV. They’re back in their office
conducting business. Maybe a staffer is watching. But many senators told me
that they felt that much of
the collegiality died when they stopped getting
together in that room and were forced to listen
to each other, and were forced to sit next
to each other and talk to each other. Now they barely see each other except running through
the hallways. So I think, hmm,
you said a joke, some might think
it might be a good idea -to return to those days.
-It’s because I understand how difficult it can be
to be natural on TV. Justice Sonia Sotomayor,

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. For someone who is tasked with making decisions everyday, it makes sense for her to have a manner in speaking that uses words thoughtfully and carefully. I admire that. Words hold so much power.

  2. As a diabetic, I know she almost died because she didn’t take her injection, which she said that she took every day… Wait… Maybe I should have “Asked” her if she skipped her injection that day because of the party??!

  3. I knew the book would be available in both languages, but I’d prefer it if it were like when I was growing up – where both books are together flipped upside down. I used to LOVE those books!

  4. Sometimes I put on Trevor at work while I'm entering data. I saw this. Wow! What an interview I also agree with her indirect idea to take the cameras out of the congress! Thank you for your service, Dear Judge. I have a deep respect for your position. Thank you for your courage to stand up and call all of us to "just ask" instead of making a judgement.

  5. "Reading The Decision" allows "The Reader" to CRITICALLY THINK ABOUT…HOW PAST precedence, the CURRENT social, political & economic CLIMATE & already established rules, protocol & procedures, MAKES THE Judgeship, incredibly CHALLENGING.

    The dbl-bind/2 Edge-Sword I see regarding PRECEDENCE is, it can only go as far as the FORMER JUDGES, minds. The short sightedness, inheirent bias, structural boundiaries & cognitive dissonance will allow, only so much; often times painting SOME or ALL The Justices in a corner. The decisions set forth, tend to free some… of responsibility, accountablity & liability, while abandoning, sanctioning, censoring & binding others, due to the precedence set by other rulings, that COULD NOT have been imagined & are not allowed to forsee, if or when, "The People"…of The U.S.A. today, will change their COMMUNIAL standard of injustice. ~Law & Media Sem.💯

    Yes Trevor, our legal system is such, cuz many are indifferent, inconsisent, complacent, incompetent, ignorant/unknowing, negligent, corrupt & disloyal to The Very Oath, they swore/affirmed to uphold & defend, against enemies both foriegn & DOMESTIC… like the Civil Servants, broke their mirrors, so they can't see their own misconduct or their collegues…YET, THEY ALWAYS REACH CONSENSUS, EVERY OCT when it's time to increase their salaries.

    The Judgeship…It's like changing a baby's wet CLOTH diaper, without taking off the rubber bottoms, while your moving/driving down a dark, wet untravelled country road; baby has a rash (racism) that won't quit & you've neva found an ointment that works. Equality is to CORNSTARCH…🙃☺ Smh

  6. My boyfriend has autism. I didnt know much about autism except for stereotypes. Now I learn how to help him and be the best and most understanding.

  7. Something about her manerisms reminds of Bernie Sanders. Especially when she said "far fetched." She is a great explainer. Sassy.

  8. 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰 Thank you 🙏 for that book. I’m buying it for my 5yo daughter. She was just diagnosed with ADHD, who loves to read and make friends! 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰

  9. The older are wise in their ways and it is the young that must learn from them …. because of the experiences . My new role model

  10. I love her but she is being far too kind about the other Justices, two were accused of sexual assault and one of them threw a tantrum on national tv so 🤷🏻‍♀️

  11. Justice Sotomayor challenged us to examine verdicts so we may understand their work. Interestingly, there are growing libraries of verdicts read aloud, which may help make the transcripts more accessible.
    Like Roe V Wade, for example, as found here –

  12. Her story about her and her friends, not knowing about her diabetes, really touched me. I think we sometimes hide things from the ones that love us not to appear weak or burden them, but if they love you, they would want to help when you need it. What a great interview.

  13. Damn, Justice Sotomayor is such an inspirational person, i mean, i dont know how to explain, but she's like a wise person, like if everything she say need to be spread to everyone, again damn, but she need SOOOOO much respect, looking at her make me feel so strong, that's amazing O_O

  14. What an excellent interview with the honorable Justice Sotomayor! It was thought-provoking and informative on a level we rarely see in mainstream media. I was moved and inspired as a woman of color, as an American, and as a citizen of the world. I too encourage everyone reading this to "just ask" and "dream big"

    #supremecourt #justiceissotomayor

  15. Great interview! So refreshing to have people on the show that add depths and knowledge away from the entertainment industry.

  16. Justice Sotomayor is so inspiring! We feature her autobiography for kids on our channel… check it outi!

  17. Read her book my beloved world, loved it, it was great.I'm from nyc, and it took me back to my childhood. Thank you judge sonia sotomayor.

  18. I appreciate Justice Sotomayor’s idealized version of the courts, but things are changing rapidly in America. Trump has been packing federal courts with far-Right, highly ideological judges – people with controversial, political pasts. And it is starting to pay off with an uptick in favorable rulings.

    The courts are supposed to be nonpartisan and independent (this was actually the most disqualifying thing about Kavanaugh – not the rape accusations, but his rabid partisanship). Independent courts are a core component of liberal democracy. But like many other issues these days, those norms and rules don’t matter when one “side” simply tosses them out the window to seize unchecked power.

    There have been some questionable 5/4 SC decisions lately, and with Trump going full-on corrupt authoritarian and literally denying the constitutional powers of impeachment, we are soon going to find out whether our federal courts still deserve our respect.

  19. Thank You, Trevor Noah, for promoting Just Ask. I like the way you Educate the masses with Comedy.
    Learn while laughing some teacher can learn a thing or two from you.

  20. I saved the life of an airline passenger who was going into insulin shock- he left the plane but was standing to one side as everyone disembarked and as I walked by him an alarm in my head went off, his color was awful and he was diaphoretic- and so I went up to him and – just asked! Are you diabetic?!! And the answer was yes- I asked him how much insulin he'd had- which apparently for some reason was too much- so I holler at the stewardess for a wheelchair and orange juice and sugar! Lol wham bam! "call a doctor"! The ladies jumped in action and took over after I gave him the IJ and filled them in and turned and left- and after I got halfway down the exit way I realized what I'd just done and literally was astounded! Mind you I was a nurse but I always relied on the RNs than myself! The difference between insulin shock and low blood sugar are so alike I never relied on my knowledge instead a machine- but in this case there was no time! And I was able to subconsciously access the situation correctly- by JUST ASKING!

  21. This was so engaging and Trevor tried to throw in a few insightful jokes lol. I'm glad he let just mainly let her talk. She's a fount of wisdom and decorum.

  22. This is why we need to keep electing republicans. We can't have these irrational leftist wing nuts imposing their racism on the court. Affirmative action is UNCONSTITUTIONAL. Throwing out the results of a fair, unbiased fireman's exam just because no blacks or Hispanics passed is both racist and unconstitutional. These liberal idiots care nothing about the Constitution or simple fairness, it's all about forced racial equality and they could not care less who they step on to achieve their racial equality delusion.

  23. This woman judged my mock trial case when I was in middle school I think back in 2008 for a Law debate program I was in. Such an amazingly patient and brilliant woman she is!

    So proud to have been in this woman’s presence in my life time. #BronxGirls

  24. Wow. I am not an American but i do watch a lot of Trevor's show. Watching that lady is a breath of fresh air. She's so wise and if I was Trevor I would have asked her permission for a hug. Don't know if the other justices are like her but thank you ma'am for enlightening us.

  25. She is obviously very accomplished and seems very nice. Still the supreme court needs an extreme make over. i. e. term limits, number of judges and appointment process.

  26. She is so well spoken! I guess you have to be, to dissect law every day in the highest court in a country like the USA.

  27. At 18:16 Trevor reminds me of the dude from the start of the video for Get Back by Ludacris. "Yo, I'm talkin about major visibility and the Sotoverse!"

  28. Trevor Noah has such a poignant way of asking questions. He knows how to hold a conversation with substance. Kudos Trev, that’s why you’re my fave. Xoxo

  29. Being brave enough to admit a unique minor defect (diabetes) ?

    Millenials recite our minor defects aloud to everyone dozens of times a day, it's like vitamins for us …

  30. The amount of presence she has by talking is nothing short of amazing. She will inspire many and her legacy will always continue.

  31. This woman is a lazy justice. She clearly makes decisions on how she feels (emotion) not how she thinks (logic). Most of her fans like her for emotional reasons ("she's like my grandma") not logical ones.

  32. VIRGINIA Claims to be a State of Satan. We kill them for trespassing on earth. I check in with the USA Supreme Court for Parity and Clarity. 11/20/2019 from San Diego, CALIFORNIA
    forwarded to Sonia Sotomayor that says to me , by name, "Joe democracy is two or more, not one, we do not recognize you and you do not exist"

  33. Very interesting interview. I haven't always agreed with Justice Sotomayor's opinions but watching this has made me realize that I had an ill-informed opinion of her. Regardless of whether our politics align, I feel proud, safe, and glad to have her on the court because she's clearly a woman of immense intellect, seriousness, and empathy. I particularly liked her comment at the end about getting cameras out of government. I've thought that for a LONG time.

  34. She is an amazing, inspiring woman. A true person of high value and pride, not only for the Puerto Rican people but also a great example for this country; the USA. Gracias gran Señora. God continue to bless her, always.

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