Albany Law School will be closed today until 4pm due to the weather.
United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was presented with Albany Law School’s
Kate Stoneman Award on Monday, April 3, following a wide-ranging, thoughtful, and at times humorous conversation with students in front of the law school community.
Justice Sotomayor said she was honored to receive the award named for
Katherine “Kate” Stoneman, the first woman admitted to the bar in New York State and Albany Law’s first female graduate, Class of 1898. The Stoneman Award is presented annually by the law school to people in the legal profession who have demonstrated a commitment to seeking change and equal opportunities for women.
“Kate Stoneman’s footsteps are ones I did follow in,” said Justice Sotomayor, a native of New York City’s Bronx borough. “But my footsteps are not ones I want you to follow. I want you to make your own along with me.”
Several former Stoneman award winners in the crowd stood to be recognized. Justice Sotomayor was also presented with an official Albany Law School basketball.
The award ceremony capped a memorable evening in which Justice Sotomayor, walking through the aisles in the Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom, answered several students’ questions with anecdotes from her memoir, “My Beloved World,” and spoke of the responsibilities that come with being a jurist on the nation’s highest court.
“It almost felt as if she was a family member,” third-year student Adriana De Leon told the Albany Times Union.
Justice Sotomayor advised students on assertiveness, understanding, and ethics. One recurring theme was the importance of passion and empathy—both on the bench and for the roles that lawyers play in our society.
"Unchecked anger is self-indulgent,” she said. “What gets people to listen to you is your passion about an issue, not your anger.”
The discussion was moderated by Albany Law President & Dean Alicia Ouellette and Government Law Center Director Andrew Ayers, who clerked for the justice during her term on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Stoneman Award was presented by Professor Mary A. Lynch, the Kate Stoneman Chair in Law and Democracy, and Professor Melissa Breger.
Also during her visit, Justice Sotomayor met privately with student leaders and spent time with the faculty. She spoke briefly with a crowd in the gymnasium—where the event was being simulcast—before beginning the formal program in the moot courtroom.
Justice Sotomayor also headlined the University at Albany’s Speaker Series on April 4 at SEFCU Arena, where she discussed her memoir which recounts her inspiring journey to the federal bench. She also visited Sage College in Troy.
Justice Sotomayor is the third woman and the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. She was appointed to the position by President Barack Obama in August 2009. Born in Bronx, N.Y., on June 25, 1954, she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University. In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was an editor of the Yale Law Journal. She served as Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney's Office from 1979–1984. She then litigated international commercial matters in New York City at Pavia & Harcourt, where she served as an associate and then partner from 1984–1992. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and she served in that role from 1992to 1998. She served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1998 to 2009. President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed that role on August 8, 2009.