CBS: Sotomayor Known for ‘Dance-offs’ and ‘Can’t-miss Christmas Parties’

Reporting on Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation to the Supreme Court on Saturday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Wyatt Andrews declared: "...she’s not always the reserved, work-aholic judge she portrayed in the Senate hearings....The judge is also known for her can't-miss Christmas parties, which included salsa dancing inside the federal court of appeals in Manhattan." [Audio/video (1:25): Mp3 | WMV]

Andrews offered a detailed report on Sotomayor’s down-to-earth personality as he spoke with her friends and colleagues: "...according to friends, like former law clerk Allison Barkoff, the Judge has a big, engaging, New York personality." Barkoff exclaimed: "She is fun. She – she works hard and she plays hard." No mention was made in the segment of Sotomayor’s infamous "wise Latina" comments.

As an example of how the newest member of the Supreme Court "plays hard" Andrews described: "Melissa Murray clerked for two federal judges, including Sotomayor, and when both judges came to Melissa’s wedding, Sotomayor challenged the other judge to a dance-off." After describing Sotomayor’s "can’t-miss" Christmas party, Andrews added: "Sotomayor knew and invited everyone in the courthouse." Barkoff explained: "The people who work in the cafeteria, the security guards, the custodians, are equally as important as her colleagues."

Andrews went on to describe Sotomayor’s efforts to help disadvantaged children in the community: "In Manhattan today, a group at the Development School for Youth, celebrated the judge’s swearing in. For years, Sotomayor has asked them, disadvantaged kids from the inner city, to come to court and stage a mock trial of ‘Goldilocks’ on burglary charges. As they became the jury, prosecution, and the witnesses, Melissa [Murray] recalls seeing the light go on."

The report concluded with Andrews noting: "To her friends, this is what the public did not see in the hearings – a woman who, the more powerful she got, the less she changed....It’s not as if the Supreme Court doesn’t already have its engaging characters or a fun Christmas party. It has both. But Sotomayor is bringing another level of energy and high-octane personality to the nation’s highest court."

In a report prior to Andrews’ fawning personal profile of Sotomayor, correspondent Kimberly Dozier gushed: "Sonia Sotomayor today became the first Hispanic, the third minority, and the third woman to join the Supreme Court in more than 200 years....Her mother was at her side, the woman who raised Sotomayor on her own. She told her daughter she could become anything she put her mind to. Today, the self-described Puerto Rican girl from the South Bronx became living proof of that."

Dozier cited thrilled Sotomayor supporters: "And her moment here...was celebrated across her home town." One supporter, Ellie Sanchez, declared: "This is our moment. Latino moment, people of color." Dozier continued: "Some are hoping she’ll champion women’s and minority rights." However she also acknowledged: "Others fear she’ll lean left as the first appointee by a Democratic president in 15 years." A clip was played of Republican Senator Jeff Sessions: "A judge embraces empathy at the expense of objectivity." Like in the report by Andrews, Dozier made no mention of Sotomayor’s "wise Latina" comments.

Dozier then observed: "The experts say it often takes three to four years before a new justice’s pattern becomes clear. She’s replacing David Souter, who turned out to be far more liberal than the first Bush White House expected." CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen argued: "My sense is she is going to be moderately liberal, like Justice Souter was, and in some ways more conservative."

Here is a full transcript of Andrews’ report:

6:35PM SEGMENT:

JEFF GLOR: We’ve heard a lot the past couple months about Justice Sotomayor’s long career as a lawyer, prosecutor, and federal judge. But her friends say she has another, more personable side. Wyatt Andrews has that story.

WYATT ANDREWS: What you might not know about Sonia Sotomayor is that she’s not always the reserved, work-aholic judge she portrayed in the Senate hearings.

ALLISON BARKOFF: Judge Sotomayor is – she’s so different.

ANDREWS: Different because, according to friends, like former law clerk Allison Barkoff, the Judge has a big, engaging, New York personality.

BARKOFF: Yeah. She is fun. She – she works hard and she plays hard.

MELISSA MURRAY: She’s incredibly funny.

ANDREWS: Melissa Murray clerked for two federal judges, including Sotomayor, and when both judges came to Melissa’s wedding, Sotomayor challenged the other judge to a dance-off.

MURRAY: I think people enjoyed seeing that, seeing two federal judges duel it out on the dance floor.

ANDREWS: The judge is also known for her cant-miss Christmas parties, which included salsa dancing inside the federal court of appeals in Manhattan.

BARKOFF: Out in the hallway.

ANDREWS: Of the courthouse?

BARKOFF: Of the courthouse, with a great spread of food and usually a DJ.

ANDREWS: But what Allison also recalls from the party is that Sotomayor knew and invited everyone in the courthouse.

BARKOFF: The people who work in the cafeteria, the security guards, the custodians, are equally as important as her colleagues.

ANDREWS: In Manhattan today, a group at the Development School for Youth, celebrated the judge’s swearing in. For years, Sotomayor has asked them, disadvantaged kids from the inner city, to come to court and stage a mock trial of ‘Goldilocks’ on burglary charges. As they became the jury, prosecution, and the witnesses, Melissa recalls seeing the light go on.

MURRAY: The underlying goal is to make sure that these kids see that there’s something else that’s possible.

ANDREWS: To her friends, this is what the public did not see in the hearings – a woman who, the more powerful she got, the less she changed. One of her best friends is federal Judge Miriam Cedarbaum.

MIRIAM CEDARBAUM: I think that Judge Sotomayor will be an inspiration to many people, she has been already.

ANDREWS: It’s not as if the Supreme Court doesn’t already have its engaging characters or a fun Christmas party. It has both. But Sotomayor is bringing another level of energy and high-octane personality to the nation’s highest court. Wyatt Andrews, CBS News, at the Supreme Court.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC