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Berkeley Talks: Justice Sonia Sotomayor on fighting the good fight

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Sonia Sotomayor stands among audience members sitting in an auditorium while giving a lecture
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gave UC Berkeley’s annual Herma Hill Kay Memorial Lecture on Jan. 29, 2024.

Philip Pacheco/Berkeley Law

In Berkeley Talks episode 191, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor talks about getting up every morning ready to fight for what she believes in, how she finds ways to work with justices whose views differ wildly from her own and what she looks for in a clerk (hint: It’s not only brilliance).

“I’m in my 44th year as a law professor,” said Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinksy, who was in discussion with Sotomayor for UC Berkeley’s annual Herma Hill Kay Memorial Lecture on Jan. 29. “I’m teaching constitutional law this semester. I have to say that I’ve never seen some of my students as discouraged as they are now about the Supreme Court and about the Constitution. What should I say to them?”

“What choice do you have but to fight the good fight?” Sotomayor responded. “You can’t throw up your hands and walk away. That’s not a choice. That’s abdication. That’s giving up.

“How can you look at the heroes like Thurgood Marshall, like the freedom fighters, who went to lunch counters and got beat up? To men like John Lewis, who marched over a bridge and had his head busted open? How can you look at those people and say that you’re entitled to despair? You’re not. I’m not.

“Change never happens on its own. Change happens because people care about moving the arc of the universe towards justice. And it can take time, and it can take frustration.”

Read more about Sotomayor’s lecture on Berkeley Law’s website.