Sotomayor on Clarence Thomas: ‘I believe not everyone can reach their bootstraps’

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday said that fellow Justice Clarence Thomas “cares about legal issues differently than me,” adding that she thinks “not everyone” can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Sotomayor, speaking at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, praised her colleague and said that he “cares about people.”

“He cares about legal issues differently than me,” the liberal Sotomayor said of her conservative colleague, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Clarence, who grew up very poor, believes that everyone is capable of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. I believe not everyone can reach their bootstraps.”

Sotomayor, an Obama nominee, said she tries to “find the good in everybody.”

“I look for the things that they do that are good,” Sotomayor said discussing the range of views represented by the Supreme Court justices.

Sotomayor, who was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Social Justice Award at Thursday’s event, answered students’ questions as she conversed with retired Judge Ann Claire Williams from the Northern District of Illinois.

The event was organized by Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization, which attempts to provide a “pathway” for people of color into the legal profession.

Sotomayor also discussed the future of law and her judicial philosophy, saying that current laws “can make it hard for us to see the legal system as fair.”

“What’s fair is really a judgment of how we as a society are going to help each other. And how to share resources that are limited in as fair a way as we can,” she said.

“Those choices aren’t mine to make as a judge, but those are made in the laws that are passed.”

The former trial and appellate judge, who was nominated to the highest court in 2009, emphasized the importance of bringing up children with a view toward justice.

“I ask people, ‘What choice do we have but to keep trying to change things?’ Because if you feel disenfranchised and let other people fight for what they think is right and you’re not willing to get up and fight, then you are just giving it to them,” she said, addressing the next generation.

“We have civil rights because men and women died for them. How can we even think about giving up when others have spilled blood for justice?”

Sotomayor said that she tells children that “we adults have failed you,” acknowledging that her generation is leaving behind a “really messed-up world.”

“You are the future because you are going to do better than we did,” she said of children.

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