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U.S. Supreme Justice Sonia Sotomayor rocks Cleveland

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent

United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the guestspeaker at the Cleveland Legal Aid Societys (LAS) annual dinner on Sept. 10, 2010. More than 1,200 members of the Legal Society, Latino leadership, and community members attended the dinner held at the Renaissance Hotel.

In the two days Justice Sotomayor spent in Cleveland she met personally with law students from Cleveland State and Case Western Universities, lawyers, community leaders, and the judges of the U.S. District Court. The Hispanic Roundtable also hosted the Judge for a breakfast with prominent Latino leaders, enlightening her about the communitys needs and challenges.


Sonia Sotomayor


I think I have met all of Cleveland, she said in her opening remarks, thanking the Legal Aid Society for their invitation, and especially the 1,400 lawyers who offer their services pro-bono. She said LAS plays a critical role in making justice accessible to people who need it the most. She exclaimed, You rock!

Addressing 18-year old Brenda Vera and her family in Spanish, Sotomayor applauded their courage in surviving domestic violence.  Brenda, a senior at Lincoln West High School, had shared the turmoil of living with an abusive father till the age of 15.

The turning point in her mother and three sisters lives came when they escaped one day to seek refuge at the local Domestic Violence Center. With the help of LAS lawyers, they received a restraining order for her father and their legal residence and are carrying on with their lives. Brenda hopes to become a lawyer and thanked her mother for helping her break-free of the shame most victims of violence feel.

Sotomayor told Brenda that every professional reaches a point in their lives when they hit a low, question the work they are doing, and wonder why they continue. Every time that happens to me in the future, I will think of you, she said.

As the Grand Ballroom erupted in applause, Sotomayor held up her hand for silence and praised Brendas mother Alicia for a job well done.

She made me cry and feel all warm and fuzzy at the same time, said Brenda, adding she felt goose-bumps. After everything I have been through this really felt like a blessing, she added, while hugging her mother who wiped tears from her eyes. I am so proud, said Alicia; All I have done, the long hours at the factory is for them, this is my reward.


I will remember this moment forever, said Brenda, who is a high achiever in school, an athlete and participates in the ROTC program at Kent State. She thanked LAS for opening many doors of her, and said she is determined to achieve and succeed; So some day along the way if I run into my Dad, I can show him how wrong he was, she said.
 

Sotomayor said her appointment is a testament that anyone from any background can achieve their dreams in this country and its principles of equality and justice prevail. Shes told more immigrant groups are visiting the U.S. Supreme Court since her appointment. Sotomayor invited the audience to visit as well, saying the architecture exemplifies the grandeur of justice; I am struck anew each day.

 She said most peoples interaction with the justice system usually impacts their life in a negative way and expressed hopes that officials would invest in renovating judicial buildings to reflect the essence of justice. 

This was very educational and motivating, said Yary Cora, National Hispanic MBAs Vice President of Marketing & Public Relations. She was impressed with Sotomayors humility and ability to connect with the audience. She is an inspiration to all not just Latinos, and especially for young professionals, said Cora.

Justice Sotomayor took the opportunity to mingle and meet more guests at the after-reception and even joined members of the No Name Band on stage for a quick song and dance.

   

 

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