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Justice Sonia Sotomayor visits Notre Dame

A very distinguished guest made an appearance at University of Notre Dame on Wednesday night.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor treated students and the public to an open and honest conversation.

The seats at Leighton Hall quickly sold out and students were waiting in line hours before doors opened.

Sotomayor was candid when answering questions from NBC News correspondent and Notre Dame alumna Anne Thompson.

Sotomayor talked about gender inequality within the Supreme Court, if all the justices really got along, and even how decisions are made.

Sotomayor said before the days of women like Sandra Day O’Connor, the Court was 10 years behind in gender equality. Now, with more women as justices alongside her, the conversation has changed.

She also talked about how all of the justices actually get along and make decisions:

“The first time that we get to talk about a case, is during oral argument. The lawyers get up and start making arguments but you have to understand that we know what your argument is,” says Sotomayor. “They’re coming to what is a very hot bench because we’ve read the briefs, we’ve studied the law, for some of us they’ve been making the law. Meaning, the precedence not the laws because there are tons of statutes. We’re coming to explore what each other is thinking and that’s what a lot of lawyers don’t understand. Through our individual questionings, our colleagues are understanding each other. We’re exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the case through our questions. It is a conversation not just with the lawyers but among us. And that’s really the first talk we’re having, about what each is thinking. Sometimes you’ll see us asking hard questions on each side and that’s because we are exploring and touching the weaknesses and strengths of the case. Then, we hold a conference with the chief judge and everyone has to vote but we also have to explain why. By the end of the discussion we all sort of know what each other is thinking.”

Sotomayor also said Sandra Day O’Connor started a tradition where all the justices have to meet for lunch often, and that’s a tradition they keep.

“As a woman of color myself, I know that women of color overcome unique obstacles that kind of hinder our success at times. So, what advice would you give to women of color who are working to achieve their aspirations?” a sophomore asked.

“Just know you have to work hard. The expectations of you are very, very low. And people get very surprised when you meet those aspirations and exceed them  and it feels really good when you do that," Sotomayor responded.

Lastly, Sotomayor elaborated on why she’s done so many public appearances and went on as a guest on The Daily Show and even Sesame Street.

Sotomayor simply said she wants people to realize people in positions of power are ordinary people, too.

"I hope you come away with a respect for people who are trying their very best to do what's right."

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