Robert Stein 1924-2014

Contact Information

If anyone has comments, questions or condolences, please feel free to send a private message to the family at

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sotomayor's Singleness

Since the President made so much of biography in introducing his Supreme Court nominee, every facet of Sonia Sotomayor's life seems up for discussion, including her marital history.

Divorced in her twenties, the new Justice would be taking over what is being called "the single seat" on the Court from David Souter, a bachelor. At her 1994 appellate confirmation hearing, Sotomayor introduced a fiancé who subsequently faded from the picture.

If matrimonial status has any bearing on Supreme Court deliberations, the new nominee is at the far end of the spectrum from William O. Douglas, who served longer than any other Justice (almost 37 years) and was married four times, going through three divorces while on the Court.

Yet Sotomayor shares with Douglas a background of extreme poverty after the early death of a father, in his case working as a waiter, janitor and cherry picker on the West Coast, where he saw "cruelty and hardness" by police against migrant laborers and "Chicanos."

Those experiences informed Douglas' work on the Court, which eventually resulted in an unsuccessful impeachment attempt in 1970, led by Rep. (later President) Gerald R. Ford, who attacked his "liberal opinions" and lifestyle.

Sotomayor may or may not turn out to be a philosophical soulmate of Douglas, but there is nothing in her history to suggest that she will emulate his flamboyance.

In the early 1950s, as a junior editor of a men's magazine, Argosy, I edited an article by Douglas, an avid outdoorsman who always needed extra money to support his ex-wives. It was about a cowboy obsessed with a wild black stallion, whose pursuit of the animal leads to grief at its death in captivity.

It's hard to imagine careful Sonia Sotomayor celebrating that kind of wildness.

No comments: