Justice Sotomayor Describes Frustration With Being a Liberal on the Supreme Court

Some days, after Justice Sonia Sotomayor listens to the Supreme Court announce its decisions, she goes into her chambers, shuts the door and weeps.

“There are days that I’ve come to my office after an announcement of a case and closed my door and cried,” Justice Sotomayor told a crowd on Friday at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, where she was being honored. “There have been those days. And there are likely to be more.”

The comments about the challenges of being a liberal on a court dominated by conservatives came at the tail end of a public conversation with her friend and law school classmate, Martha Minow, a former dean of Harvard Law School and human rights scholar.

The justice set a tone of optimism even as she voiced frustration with some of the court’s rulings, a possible signal that the end of the term, when the most high-profile decisions typically land, could bring more conservative victories. She urged a long-term view of pushing for the values she views as guiding principles — equality, diversity and justice.

“There are moments when I’m deeply, deeply sad,” she said, without citing any specific cases. “There are moments when, yes, even I feel desperation. We all do. But you have to own it, you have to accept it, you have to shed the tears and then you have to wipe them and get up.”

Decisions in dozens of cases are still pending, including on abortion, guns, the free speech rights of social media companies, the regulatory power of government agencies and whether former President Donald J. Trump is immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election.

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