News & Politics

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Living It Up

With a hip condo, Hollywood friends, and a love of restaurants, she isn’t your usual Supreme Court justice.

Jaleo owner José Andrés with Sotomayor at the restaurant’s recent 20th-anniversary party. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

When Barack Obama made Sonia Sotomayor the first Supreme Court pick of his presidency in 2009, court watchers knew that the relatively young, first-ever Latina justice would bring new energy to One First Street. But no one could have predicted how much she’d shake things up.

Says Tom Goldstein, a cofounder of SCOTUSblog: “She’s breaking the mold and lighting it on fire.”

With the high court wrapping up its term this month, it’s clear Sotomayor had her most exciting year in Washington yet. Here are the highlights.

• She bought a stylish pad in one of the District’s coolest neighborhoods. By trading her Cleveland Park rental for a $660,000 condo in the U Street corridor, Sotomayor solidified her standing as the hippest member of the bench. Her colleagues have settled in much more staid locales. For instance, Ruth Bader Ginsburg lives in the Watergate, and John Roberts and Antonin Scalia commute from Chevy Chase and McLean, respectively.

• While Supreme Court justices are notoriously private, Sotomayor has embraced DC nightlife. She’s been spotted at trendy restaurants such as Ardeo & Bardeo and Posto. And earlier this spring, she celebrated with chef José Andrés at the 20th-anniversary bash for his Penn Quarter eatery Jaleo.

• Thanks to the release of her memoir, My Beloved World, Sotomayor hung out with a lot of Hollywood types this year. She gave a joint book talk with actress Rita Moreno, who also has a new memoir, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall in March. She sat down with Oprah Winfrey, and she promoted her book in LA with former Desperate Housewife Eva Longoria.

• Sotomayor can tell you how to get to Sesame Street—because she made a guest appearance on the show in which she girl-talked with Muppet Abby Cadabby about becoming a doctor, engineer, or scientist instead of a princess.

• She big-timed the Vice President—sort of. When Joe Biden’s swearing-in for his second term conflicted with a Sotomayor book signing in New York, he rearranged his schedule to accommodate the justice. Biden didn’t seem to mind; he said having her administer the oath was “a wonderful honor.”

• After two days of arguments in this term’s landmark cases over the legality of same-sex marriage, Sotomayor emerged as a standout inquisitor. When she asked one of the attorneys opposing gay marriage whether he could think of any other scenario—such as refusing employment—in which a state could use sexual orientation to deny people benefits, he stammered for an answer before conceding he didn’t have one.

A version of this article appears in the June 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 and was a senior editor until 2022.