Friends: Justice Sotomayor Has a Fun Side

Supreme Court designate Sonia Sotomayor leaves her West Village apartment the day after being confirmed by the Senate as the nation's first hispanic Supreme Court Justice, Friday, Aug. 7, 2009, in New York. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)
AP Photo/Louis Lanzano
What you might not know about Sonia Sotomayor is that she's not always the reserved workaholic judge she portrayed in the Senate hearings, reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews.

Friends, like former law clerk Allison Barkoff say that Sotomayor has a big, engaging New York personality.

"Yeah she's fun, she works hard and plays hard," Barkoff said.

Melissa Murray clerked for two Federal judges, including Sotomayor - and when both judges came to Melissa's wedding, Sotomayor challenged the other judge to a dance off.

"She's incredibly funny," said Murray. "I think people enjoyed seeing that, seeing two federal judges dual it out on the dance floor."

Then there's Sotomayor's now famous Christmas parties, which included salsa dancing inside the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. They were held out in the hallway of the courthouse with a great spread of food, and usually a DJ, Barkoff said.

But what Barkoff also recalls from the party is that Sotomayor knew and invited everyone in the courthouse.

"People who work in the cafeteria, the security guards, the custodians are equally as important as her colleagues," Barkoff said.

In Manhattan Saturday, a group at the Development School for Youth celebrated the judges swearing in. For years Sotomayor asked them, disadvantaged kids from the inner city, to come to court and stage a mock trial of Goldilocks on burglary charges. As they became the jury, prosecution and witnesses, Murray recalls seeing the light go on.

"I think the underlying goal is to make sure these kids see that there's something else that's possible," Murray said.

To her friends, this is what the public did not see in the hearings. A woman who, the more powerful she got, the less she changed.

"I think Judge Sotomayor will be an inspiration to many people," said Federal Judge Miriam Cederbaum. "She has been already."

It's not that the Supreme Court doesn't have its engaging characters - or a fun Christmas party. It has both. But Sotomayor is bringing another level of energy and high-octane personality to the nation's high court.

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.