Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first female of Latina descent to ever be nominated to the Supreme Court, made a surprise visit to UC Irvine last week.
On Monday, Jan. 27, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor came to UC Irvine as one of the guest judges for the law school’s Moot Competition, but also gave a public appearance inside the Student Center and The Hill Bookstore before having dinner with campus administrators. Though this is not the first time Sotomayor has visited a university campus, UC Irvine administrators were thrilled she came to UC Irvine.
“She was terrific, demonstrating tremendous intellect, warmth, humanity and humility. It was a very special day for UCI Law School,” Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine’s Law School, said.
Sotomayor sat in as one of three judges for the Law School’s fourth annual Experian/Jones Day Moot Court Competition. The other two guest judges were Martha Daughtrey, a federal judge from the Sixth District Court of Appeals, and Judge William Fletcher from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Experian/Jones Day Moot Court Competition tests students from UC Irvine’s Law School in a competitive series of court cases where they must present their cases to judges until two finalists remain. The finalists square off against one another in front of several federal appellate judges, or in the case of last week, two appellate judges and a Supreme Court Justice.
The two finalists, law students Anne Conely and Jennifer Steve, had to argue whether recently enacted statuettes by the State of Illinois that restricted where citizens could carry firearms violated the 2nd and 14th amendments of the constitution. The statutes are controversial in the state of Illinois and may possibly be a source of a federal case in the future and therefore gave practice to the law students in subjects that they may be called upon to argue for or against in the near future.
“Watching these young lawyers today practice the art with such finesse is really wonderful,” Sotomayor said. She was pleased by the performance of the two finalists and congratulated both in a statement, “In my life as a judge, I’ve seen a whole lot of attorneys who have not done as well as you. You should be equally proud of how you performed today.”
Before judging the competition, Sotomayor made a public appearance in the Student Center, and The Hill Bookstore where she had a book signing of her memoir, “My Beloved World.” The book signing offered a rare public appearance for a Supreme Court Justice on a university campus. According to UC Irvine police officers, there were many students who went to see Sotomayor in person. However, after the book signing, the public was not allowed to see Sotomayor and the remaining events were closed to the public. Only people who had been screened before Sotomayor arrived were allowed to attend the Moot Competition and the faculty dinner.
Sotomayor arrived at UC Irvine in the morning under guard from the U.S. Secret Service and UC Irvine Police. The visit was only made possible after many conditions were set by the Secret Service, according to a law school employee. They requested that the event not be publicized for security reasons and checked many guests a week in advance, according to staff from the UCI School of Law
In order to comply with the demands for secrecy and security, Sotomayor’s visit was not publicized until several days after her visit to UC Irvine by the university until after she left.
The visit by Justice Sotomayor marks the first time ever a Supreme Court Justice has ever come to a UC Irvine School of Law event since its opening in 2009.