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tv   America the Courts  CSPAN  July 4, 2009 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT

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>> this is c-span's "america and the court." and look at the life and career of sonia sotomayor. .
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>> i did not want to say typical high school, because it was dark. it was a catholic high school on the side of new york and is located in the northern bronx. it was a pretty good education, and it was interesting in that we all had to wear uniforms. that is the one big thing i still remember. and lived in east harlem and so it required me to take the train in a uniform going through the south bronx, which sometimes was amusing and interesting in and of itself, but it was a great school, and i have great memories. she was a year older than i was. we met through a mutual friend, can boy, and he lived on the other side of 117th and park,
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where i grew up. he was a junior at cardinal spellman, and i was a sophomore. i came in as a freshman, and interestingly enough, we all had gone to the same school. >> what did you think of her at first? >> someone who was very focused, very studious, not shy at all about giving an opinion about a number of different things, but someone thoughtful and thought before speaking, and someone pretty toys. someone you would normally look up to, and i thought of her as a mentor in many ways. interestingly enough, as i was thinking where to go to school, she was helpful in terms of the guidance she provided.
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>> beside the attributes you just talked about, what would cause someone to have a better, saying that is someone i aspire to? >> i think it is because her life and mine were parallel and so many ways. she grew up in the south bronx, i grew up in east harlem. she is hispanic, i was going in cuba. so the many things we both were looking to accomplish have cultures, all of that, were very much in line. i think the family values that we shared were also very much in line. so -- and this was someone who took academics quite seriously, as i did. all that made her a figure i thought was approachable, felt
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comfortable speaking with, and i really respected what she had to offer. >> so we can understand, how many minorities might there had been at the school at that time? >> >> if you take a combination of the african-american and hispanic populations, it was probably to about 10% of the student body in total. >> what impact did that have at that period of time in the american life? >> well, for us, it was in tactful. clearly, the spellman experience was a different experience. we could talk about that later, but it did focus bus -- focus on different issues. clubs were formed to participate
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in. a hispanic club, an african- american club. and some issues, clearly the student body was very focused at that time. and i did think that it shakeout we thought about it. -- shaped how we thought about it. >> did you face discrimination? >> no. i never felt discriminated against. >> did you talk about discrimination outside of school? >> absolutely. at the time we talked a lot about issues such as statehood for puerto rico, we talked about the issue is happening in the civil rights movement which were very big. the other big issue at the time was what was happening in south africa with apartheid, and later at princeton that became a larger issue with the kinds of endowments that the university was involved in. so while we were not
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discriminated against, there was a real sense as to what the major issues of the day were, and i think the student body was focused on that. >> the teachers were nuns? >> yes. the combination was half way teachers and the other half were religious orders, and of the religious orders, i would say it was equally split among priests, brothers, and nuns. >> 8 strict environment? >> very strict indeed. there was no political correctness at the time? in fact, we had a dean of discipline, although at that time, it was big to me and imposing but never really needed to do much because i think everyone who came to the school really was in a frame of mind that they were very serious
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about it. you have to think about a situation where almost all of us were either middle-class or of poor backgrounds, and we charge tuition, so as a result of that, students took this very seriously, because parents took it seriously, as well. >> you were both in student government. what were your respective roles, and how did that impact to -- you? >> there was something called the student senate, and sonya was a student senator. i followed suit as a freshman and became a student senator as well and eventually was elected vice president for senior year. in addition to student government, we also were involved on a debate and of the public speaking team, and that gave me little bit of an entrance into going both of those clubs while i was in high
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school. >> and you grew up in harlem. >> no, i was going in cuba. i came to the united states when i was 7. english was not my first language. i think it was not hers, either. >> just in terms of what was spoken at home, i guess. how did that play into school? were there multilingual discussions going on in school, or was it pretty much all english? >> it was all english. this deals around in which had to be developed before you buy into high-school. it was a rigorous entrance exam to get into spellman, as with most catholic high-school spirit. so at that point, we had to be proficient. we were elected by our respective classes.
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we had to run small campaigns, but nevertheless, you had to make yourself known and the clerk opinions known as well. >> do you remember campaigns? >> not really well. but i would say that as a typical high schooler, there were the same sorts of issues that we brought up, but i do not really remember them in detail. >> judge sotomayor has talked about the fact of having diabetes. she is known to have had didies for many years. how did that impact your day-to- day life together? >> yes. well, this is interesting. i can also offer other anecdotes. i was not aware she was a diabetic until we were in college, so this is something
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that was kept closed to the best, was not something she shared, and it parallels who she is. private and reserved, and in other ways it is someone who is not looking for excuses. i think that is the one quality that drew us together. she was not one to make excuses for, and the same was paralleled in her own life as a diabetic. it came up in conversation 1-. i was shocked to hear it. >> when you were at princeton,
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were there times when she would have to do certain things? >> there were certain things, but i did not see that part of it. >> so you move into princeton. what impact itchy half of that? >> this is someone i knew, someone i could identify with. when she gave me an opinion on what it was she did her freshman year, i took it to heart. in many ways, she is talking now about her experiences as a freshman.
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it was a phenomenal school, but that said, it is very different. so one of the things she and i had to do was catch up somewhat with respect to things like reading skills, writing skills, etc. particularly as a freshman >> how did you do that? >> the same way she did. we spend a lot of time in the library. because in many ways, again, as a parallel to her, this was no excuses. this was not about claiming some sort of brushed. things had to get done, and life moves on. in her case, when you think about how it was that she started from that point and then was given a price her senior
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year, that is just a tremendous story. the prize is given to the senior within the senior class who achieved the highest academic standing within the class, but the person also must demonstrate certain proficiencies with respect to service. princeton review values try to make sure that the student body really embraces the whole lifestyle around service, the corning of the phrases and that sort of thing. the school takes that seriously. you have to have a high grade point average to be considered, and the winner obviously is the person that very top. >> i want to ask you about the vietnam war, because we have not talked much about that.
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during this period of time, from high school to princeton, this is all during the war. how did that play out in your relationship or in how you experienced it? >> it had a big impact. at that time, as you recall, there was no voluntary draft. there was a number pulled out, and if you were not lucky, you were called, or whatever the case may be. in mind case, it was trying to put individuals around that versus school versus my own site of what the world was like. and certainly, at princeton, there was a fair amount of discussion around that topic. what were we doing there?
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what were the good and bad points? >> i think the forum was a little more squelched. at a place like cardinal spellman. we did not have the wherewithal to express all of the views we wanted to. a princeton, yes. if particularly issues are brown south africa, apartheid, the view on endowments of the school at the time. >> how did that play out? would we have seen new discussing things with teachers?
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what would we have seen? >> some degree of demonstration, but the majority is about the issues we felt strongly about, in addition to which there was a building on campus that was named at that point the "third world center" that was the focus of all of the ethnic clubs. so a number of us spent a lot of time there, and also engaged teachers and administrators around some of the topics we thought were very important. >> you had mentioned the memorial -- minority percentage was about 10%. what was it at princeton? >> 6, 6 and a half %. overt discrimination, no, covert
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discrimination -- there were some traces of that. i want to be clear, prints and timmy was a phenomenal learning experience of wear around, both academically and experiencing life, and i met my wife there, and we continued to go back to school. so i would say we're both very close to the school now. however, at that time, it was an atmosphere where women had just been admitted in the early 1970's and i went to school there between 73 and 77, and sonia was there a year earlier. the experience around women was new to the school in general. the experience around people of color was equally new to the
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school. so in many ways, there was a bit of a push-pull situation where the school felt, hey, look, we have made certain strides, and opened the doors to people who up until now we have not opened. at the same time, those of us at the time wanted there to be more changes. we wanted to make sure there were represented faculty and as the color group, we also wanted the faculty of color to grow, as well. so we made those feelings known. >> on a recreation basis, did you party together? did you eat together?
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>> a little bit of everything. we brought with us all of the culture of new york, of our respective neighborhoods, and i think that that really was a big connection point. we have talked a bit about what was going on at in the current day, but also laughed and joked about a lot of things. we interacted with different people from literally all over the world, and that was an interesting experience. up until then, our world was really manhattan and a bit of the bronx, and for her, the bronx. so we were able to experience a much broader sort of breath of others, and sometimes, that was a good experience, sometimes it was not. we kidded around both of those and it was a good time.
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>> you were in your early 20's or so. many people of color had been integrated by 21 or 22 into having a lot of cultures. >> i think so. the biggest difference for us was a transition from a place like spellman that, although it was good and academically competitive, it did not compare to boarding school preparation. also, even the smallest things. in a boarding school, for instance, you get to do your laundry at an early age. you get to open up a checking account at an early age. all of those experience puri were new to us and we felt that in some ways that meant that we needed to catch up on a bunch of
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different things outside of the academics, as well. the other thing that happened at that time and princeton was that because the population of color was a small, it forced us to combine as a community. i can say that many years later after graduating, some of my best friends continued to be people i could graduate with. so we shared those experiences, as well. >> when did you separate, and how have you kept up? >> we separated when she graduated. she got married right after leaving school, as i recall. off to yale. there was a time when i entered princeton that i thought i was going to the legal path, as
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well. later, i decided not to end pursued a life in business. so it was at that time when our careers when different ways and it became difficult to keep in touch, i followed a lot of her accomplishments over the press and admired her from afar, rooting for her. >> you ended up at goldman sachs. >> for 21 years. >> what was it like? >> i came in 1985 and was a sales person on the fixed income traits. i had the international sales desk for a number of years, became a managing director in 2000 and joined a group of strategies in the fixed income
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division. i still consider lots of those folks they're good friends of mine. i left in 2006. >> what are you doing now? >> i am chairman and ceo of the student funding group. we are in national lender of student loans and also bore in college advising. >> thank you very much for your time. >> we continue now with our local life and career of sonya sotomayor. we talk with susan sterne about her years at yale university law school. >> when did you first meet judged sotomayor? >> in my first year of law school. this was at yale.
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in 1976. >> what were the circumstances? we were friends in her group and met at a social occasion. a group of law students were getting acclimated to a new situation. we shared an interest. most importantly, we shared an interest in social justice. we both came to law school to advance that set of personal goals and immediately discovered that that was a common bond. we also really enjoyed trying to figure out what actually was going on in the world of law school. we enjoyed try to analyze the culture we were in. >> what was going on at that time? >> it was a very exciting place. we had a class of people who were really very serious about
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themselves and their futures. so there were many discussions about the role of the law as an agent of change and also the will of the wall as an agent of civility. lots of discussion about that. we were also in the second wave of women. very few faculty were women. so we also were navigating our way into a world that was new to us, and we were newcomers. i came from brown university. >> did she ever talk about the transition and princeton? >> that was not a subject of discussion. we were focused on the work we
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were doing and we were law journal college together, so some talk about what it was like to write an article for the law journal. we both wrote on it. rather than trying to play in a leadership role elsewhere besides. so there was a lot of discussion of that, as well. she was an editor of the journal, which meant that she worked on other people's articles and also wrote an article for blog journal which was subsequently published. >> why have a law journal? who reads it? >> that is a good question. the idea is that we are trying to create knowledge to inform both the practitioners of law,
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judges, policy makers, and law students is also entering the field, and journal articles are an opportunity to allow students to express their view, to use their research to say something important. >> do you remember any of her articles? >> she wrote an article that was on -- i do not remember it. it was on puerto rico and the the role of states' rights in allocating -- i think it was natural resources. in many ways, it was indicative of her as a tourist. it was something that was motivated by a sense of justice
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and trying to understand problems, executed with great care and precision, a very careful and close reading of case law, and really trying to do a thorough and thoughtful job. it was typical. >> were you in class together? >> i do not think we were. we socialized and brainstormed ideas together. >> he went to different leadership goals. she went to what? >> she led a policy journal, she was on the executive leadership of a policy journal, and that was the part that i knew most
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about. and i actually took the route to go into depth about an area that i thought was important and for which there was an insufficient understanding, and we shared that, as well. >> paid us a picture of the two of you in a social setting or whatever you do and tell me what the exchange of ideas might have looked like. >> i'm picturing us in her apartment, although i cannot be sure, with our feet up, but simultaneously having deep conversations and constructive
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conflict around ideas. we were each trying to figure out where we fit in, but also more important and what it meant to be a lawyer, addressing this set of issues which we came into as a set of commission thence, but we were being socialized into a role, and what would that mean, what was the relationship between the role and what was tried to accomplish. the things that i remember being struck by at the time was the degree to which she had the appreciation overall, that figuring out what it takes to initially be a lawyer, a
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prosecutor, what it means to be writing from the position of a law journal editor, what it meant to be an advocate, versus a judge. i remember i did the initial set of conversations between roll and content. once content was shaped by the position, and i remember having a sense about this kind of passion about what role meant, whether you are 8 judge, a legislator, or an advocate. and that was some of the criticism. >> it should a judge, a judge advocate. >> what was clear was that they
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were on the bench, and having some conversations with her socially, it needs to have a strong sense of role in that she really develops her opinions where she stands, how she inquires based on what it means to be a judge. so she is not magic. in law school, she was coming in, figuring out, " where am i in this? what is the role i want to occupy that will enable me to fulfill my public mission? haven't -- having taken on the position of judge, i would say she is as committed to the
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legitimacy of that role as anyone i have ever seen. she was a very careful the juror, not advancing and the agenda as an advocate. so that is what it means to be really attentive. it means i am in this position. what does one in this position to do? >> let's go to the social side. >> i do not think it would look like they were letting their hair down when they have down time. i remember her wonderful
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parents. she is someone who really enjoyed good food of all different kinds, wonderful dinners, and what i remember is -- i'm not a coat, so it was them doing wonderful food. a real joy conversation about issues of passionate interest to the group of people, and finding the humor in that. she was someone who was very serious and committed but also able to stand back with humility and laugh at herself and understand herself in relation to a broader group.
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>> one thing that stands out about her is that she is someone who really paid attention to the content of what you were saying, whether you were, rather than who you were. so you listen to a good argument for a persuasive you, whether it came from a person on the street or a supreme court justice, she is someone who pays close attention and at the same time is not easily intimidated. somebody who would push back if she does to create and do it with -- if she disagreed, doing it with grace and respect. but also making sure that she got to the bottom of things, and that was something that was
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actually part of the enjoyment. >> we would do it when we were brainstorming about ideas. this was happening between you, your friends, as well as others. she asks great, hard questions, and she does so with an interest to really understand with an open mindedness about rethinking her own position if what she hears testifies that process. >> were there other social things you do besides dinners? were there sports, anything else? cards, things? >> music, but what i would have to say what stands out in my
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mind is food and deep conversation. >> how would you say she fit in the class? were there many other latinas in the class? >> no. very few, actually. so she was breaking new ground, although she was not somebody who presented herself with that as her mark of identity. she was somebody who mingled with a wide range of people. she was somebody who seems to celebrate where she came from but did not define herself fully buy it, but by where she is going. she was someone who was very well integrated into the
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intellectual life of the law school, a vibrant part of the journal, which was the center of the intellectual life in many respects, although there were many other centers, as well. she was also very active in social issues that were of back to be relevant at the time. if i remember correctly, this does not stand out vividly, but she was doing clinical work at law school and was very involved in that community, as well. she was active. all this was not something i had direct contact with, but she was active in the latino organization at yale and i think her leadership role was and that, as well. so she wore many hats and law school -- she was a very active
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presence. >> do you remember your graduation? >> i remember it vaguely. >> were you altogether, or was there anything -- were their goodbyes? how did that work? >> we were altogether. there was a cocktail party afterwards and an opportunity to say goodbyes and reminisce a little bit. >> have you seen her since then? >> since i came to columbia and joined the faculty, i visited in 1999 and joined in 2000, we have rekindled our friendship. we both speak about potential law clerks, talk about teaching
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and have dinner on a number of occasions and basically share our lives. >> i am sure you have been reading articles about her. are there some were you said, they got it, or that is absolutely wrong? >> well, the ones talking about her as a straight shooter, as someone who is hard to pigeonhole, as someone who calls it like she sees it, who does not fall neatly in one or another place on the ideological spectrum, who takes her role very seriously -- those seem to me to really resonate with the
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person i know and the judge that i think she will be. also, cometary suggests that she is somebody who really can cross a lot of lines. she is an effective communicator, so those strike me as resonating with the person that i know. i found that the people most disconnected were commentaries questioning her qualifications. to me, those reactions were really not about judge sotomayor. they were about the commentators. there were very little ways to
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look at her achievement and capability and commitments and raise questions about her qualifications. here she is. >> more experience as a judge then the supreme court justices, and somebody who really takes the world extremely seriously and is demanding of yourself and the quality of work. it is difficult to raise a question about prosecution. you could say, look how the public discourse about race is skewing the way in which a candidate for the supreme court nomination is being viewed. >> is there anything in all of that where you say, they have
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missed this. this is something people should know. >> well, the idea about putting together these qualities that the critics and supporters have noted separately, on one hand, she is someone who is not really trying to stake out a huge new ground. she is a careful purist. she has been offered as a criticism with the idea that she is a tough communicator who can speak and is not intimidated by anybody. what i do not think has been seen is that when you put those things together, you get it to be very significant and constructive by the court.
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you are pushed to listen hard and connect. you do it in a way that is not driven by the outcome you want to get to, but by a deep commitment to the law. so these qualities are being juxtaposed in opposition to each other and in fact they coexist with her and put her in a position to be a remarkably effective justice. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> more now with our look at the life and career of the supreme court nominee sonia sotomayor. up next, robert morgenthau on her time working as a prosecutor in the new york district attorney's office. >> the first time you met her --
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do you remember? >> i do. it was at yale law school, 1970 it was. i was recruiting for the district attorney's office at the time. kopp -- i said jose, do you have any good candidates? i said i never thought of being in existence attorney, but they said it would be good for you. when i said what is her name, he said sonia sotomayor. i said she is interested, have her call me. >> did you interview her in this room? do you remember? >> yes, i did.
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i interview everybody in this room. no, i interview everybody. >> what struck you about her? >> number one, she had an incredible economic rigid academic record. she had come from a parochial high school, and on to princeton. she told me she had trouble with the language her first year, but then a professor took an interest in her and she spent the summer with him and his family and wrote an essay everyday. she ended up graduating summa cum laude and went on to law school, to be editor of blog journal -- the law journal. but i was impressed by her common sense. no nonsense. and i think you can relate, and
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i was not wrong. >> what does it take to have that ability? >> an understanding of people. you cannot think you're smarter than anyone else. even though she was smart, she had the ability to communicate. we did a survey, i remember, fairly early on, and we found the number one at reason for this was that victims and witnesses refuse to testify, so we wanted to be sure that whoever came with us was somebody who had ability but also could relate to victims or witnesses so they could persuade them to testify truthfully. >> it was 1979. you were at yale, looking for lawyers, and a professor who is
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now a judge ended up. did the two of you ever talk about it? was it a chance meeting? >> it was. he and i work founding directors of the poor regan layover fund, so it was just a chance meeting. jose got in before us. so it was fortuitous. >> when you brought her into this office, what job is to have? she had the same job. she came in the day after labor day and went through a training program and then would handle misdemeanors. >> is that what you call it
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trial bureau, or something like that? >> we have six bureaus. the reason is because we do not want everyone to be on duty the same day, but rotate. >> i know that every day is different, but if you had to describe what a normal day would have been like at that period of time for her, how would you describe it? >> when they were doing intake, of course, they had to meet with arresting officers, they had to evaluate testimony and meet with witnesses, if there were any, and then they would write up the complaint and then handle the arraignment. right then and there. unless there was a delight and fingerprints or something -- was
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a delay and fingerprints. once they were in the room, there would be arraigned that date. they carry 60 or 70 cases. >> and it would continue with that, to intake? >> on that day. they had a lot of balls in the air and they had to be careful. but she had the capacity for work, and the judges who sat at the arraignment box were going to compete with each other to see how many cases they could dispose of in any one time. but nobody pushed to judge sotomayor around. >> what style which used to deal
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with people, on one level, and be good at it, and also not allow herself to be pushed around? >> well, i mean, she just was very even-tempered. she was prepared to the extent that you can be when you are handling these cases. she could be well known quickly as one of the new assistance. >> at that time, the professor said he did not know whether she would be interested. did you have to convince her? >> no. she had only applied at that point to private firms. but maybe i had to convince her. i do not know. this -- she did not really say,
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i have to think about that. >> how many assistants which you have? >> probably about 50. >> is that how many you have today? >> no. >> i read that the salary at that time was $17,000 a year. was that considered good? >> not really, no. but as i told applicants, the difference between working for the attorney's office and private practice, if you go to private practice, you are an employee. at the attorney's office, the day you walked in, you are a partner. there are junior partners and senior partners and senior senior partners.
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>> we would have a line around, a reception for them. but this is only if they were handling a case of was interested in. >> were there any large cases that she dealt with during that time that you would have been working with her on? >> yes. there were two cases. a so-called tarzan robbery. he would swing down, a jump rope, kick in the window and rob people. he committed three murders during the course of this rampage. she tried that case in addition to another, and they put him away for 137 years to life.
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he is still over there. the other case was a child pornography case, and we head had difficulty with child pornography cases because some of the old walls had to show that the film or whatever it was appealed to the current interest of the viewer. it was a variable. a lawyer from buffalo used to come down to represent these defendants that he would say he could not believe that this appeal to prurient interests. and they would say, no. so we had a change in the statute to bring and to the child welfare law, saying that using children in a pornographic film was a violation of the child will all -- welfare law. that case went to the supreme court and they upheld a
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constitution. and she tried the first case and the constitutionality had been upheld. >> she would have been here 30 years ago, and at that time, you had been district attorney five years? >> yes. >> so you were getting your legs like yourself? >> yes. she came in 79. >> so when you think about the possibility of her sitting as a justice on the supreme court, what do you see in the current justice today that you howff closely -- also see in judge sotomayor in terms of that? >> number one, she is highly intelligent. she believes emerald wall, she is a good listener, and i think
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that is excellent judgment. when i first got out what school, i had the good luck to work for judge robert patterson, which have been the judge of the court of appeals for the second circuit, so i have some familiarity with judicial thinking, and i thought she was outstanding and think she will be outstanding. she will be the only judge on this court who has tried cases at all local well, so she knows what the issues are, the trauma victim undergoes, difficulty in making a case, the difficulty of prosecuting, and she also understands the impact that a federal decision will have on state courts.
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people tend to forget that more than 90% of the people in correctional destitution -- institutions are sent there by state prosecutors. to have only one judge on that court who understands what the problems are is extremely important. >> one criticism is whether personal thoughts come into her legal ideas. how would you deal with your assistant district attorney about their own personal opinions, how to keep those out of their judicial life? >> it was never a problem with her. she believed in the world of wall -- were -- rule of law, in enforcing law.
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>> did you half other assistant d.a.s you have to work with? >> once in eight great while, but generally not. we had a practice manual, and the full the guidelines -- you follow the guidelines. but we never had any case with her when she did not want to follow the guidelines. >> i read that it was hard work, hard play, and an almost self- contained world. would you describe your office in that way? >> >> it certainly is hard worker there are some assistance -- >> it is hard work. there are some -- she was always prepared. but you have to get out and
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interview witnesses and certainly it is not a job where you can go out. that is what would look for. somebody can come up with a great record as a moot court trial lawyer. but we want to see someone who can relate to the community. if you do not have the cooperation of witnesses, you can be the best trial war and world and get that word. -- trial lawyer in the world and get nowhere. we have a lot of victims and witnesses who are hispanic, latino. sure. that is an asset. when i came in, there were no latino assistance. in fact, there


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