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76° Good Afternoon

Kidsday reporters talk with Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor with Kidsday reporter Amelia

Chief Justice Sonia Sotomayor with Kidsday reporter Amelia Cossentino at Hostos Community College in the Bronx (Feb. 2, 2013) Credit: Pat Mullooly

Amelia Cossentino, 11, of Malverne, missed a mandatory music rehearsal on Saturday afternoon, but she did get an excuse note -- from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Amelia was one of four Kidsday reporters from Valley Stream school district 13 who interviewed Sotomayor at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, where she had come to promote her autobiography, "My Beloved World."

For the students, being the only reporters to talk with her privately was more than exciting. As Randy Kublall, 11, of Elmont, put it, "She loves people, her smile was so big and proud. She shook my hand at least three times!"

They also found her story inspiring, said Jessica Sossi Romano, 12, of Franklin Square: "She mentioned if she can do it, anyone else can do it, too."

What was your inspiration or who's your role model for writing your book? Did anybody help you?

What an interesting question. It wasn't one person, it was my family. That's why the book starts with my family. It starts with my grandmother. Well, the very beginning is my mom and dad, but then I go to my grandmother and the rest of my family.

We find a judge to be a role model to everyone. What words of wisdom could you give to the people who want to become a judge?

It's the advice that I give to anybody who wants to do anything. Whether it's being a judge, doctor, teacher, astronaut, engineer. You name the profession. Make sure you love what you're doing. It doesn't matter what you choose to do, as long as you have passion about the work you're doing, then that will show in how well you do your work.

We heard that your book is about life struggles. What does that mean to you and why did you choose to write about this?

For me it was being poor, it was having a disease, juvenile diabetes. . . . And my dad had a lot of problems before he died. And it was a bad situation for my mom and for us. And you have struggles as you start going to school, and do your career, figuring out how to be successful with what you do can sometimes be a struggle. . . . There's a way around struggles if you give yourself a chance to find them.

What was it like to swear in Barack Obama?

I didn't swear him in, but I swore in the vice president, Joe Biden, and it was almost unbelievable. You know they say after the swearing-in of the president, when he was leaving and he turned around to look how big the audience was. Well, I did that as I went on to the platform and I was amazed because I never imagined I would ever be in front, not just of the nation, but of the world. And it was pretty cool.

Do you think the judicial branch is the strongest branch of the government, and if so, why?

I can't answer that question, I have a bias; I have a prejudice. I'm a judge. Because of that, I always say "yes" to that question. Because I think that we can decide questions without compromising our values. You see when you're in the political branch, whether you're the president or Congress, you have a lot of people to represent. And a lot of times they have conflicts in what they need. And so you have to figure out who's going to give up something in a struggle. Now, a judge doesn't have to decide a conflict that way. We do what the law says, what we think the law says. And so we don't have to compromise our decisions in that way. So I think that's why we're the strongest branch.

Do you ever wear your Supreme Court robe around the house?

God, no! Do you know how heavy that robe is? Everybody takes off their jacket. When I became a judge, I was told by a woman judge buy short sleeve shirts because that robe is so hot that you're going to fry under it. And she was absolutely right. It's big and heavy and you get so hot that nobody would wear it around the house. It's not that comfortable.

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