Sonia Sotomayor had been a federal appeals court judge for about four months when Ellen Chapnick got a phone call in 1998.
The Columbia Law School lecturer's students had worked and studied with Sotomayor as part of a program at the school, but Chapnick figured the partnership had come to an end with the judge's new job.
"She called me up and said, 'You know, I really miss your students. Isn't there something we can do about that?'" recalled Chapnick, now Dean of the Social Justice Program at the school. "And, of course, a judge rarely asks a question when she doesn't know the answer."
That call, and the partnership that would continue another six years, captures the essence of the woman who has spent years on the federal bench, friends and colleagues said.
They remember a tireless worker spending late hours in her chambers or on projects like the college course: A tough decision-maker who would pick apart any lawyer foolish enough to come to court unprepared; a thoughtful jurist whose years as an aggressive prosecutor endeared her to law enforcement even as she developed a reputation as a social liberal; and a child of the Bronx who maintained a heart for people from all walks of life as she ascended to the legal world's loftiest positions. Read full article »