The Times is really, really pleased that Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is a New York native. After swooning last Friday about the "daughterof the Bronx," while name-checking Woody Allen and "The Warriors,"Metro section reporter Manny Fernandez has made Sotomayor intoanObama-style figure of inspiration for three days running, basing his stories on the thinnest of connective tissue.
Lately, students at Blessed Sacrament have been doing a lot of talking about what they want to be, as the most famous graduate in the school's nearly 80-year history has been all over the television, appearing this week before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, 55, was a student at Blessed Sacrament in the 1960s, attending kindergarten through eighth grade at the Catholic school and graduating at the top of the class of 1968. One of the red-brick buildings where she lived with her family in the nearby Bronxdale Houses public housing complex can be seen from the school's asphalt playground.
Then, as now, the older students attend school in upstairs classrooms inside Blessed Sacrament Church, and the younger ones have classes in a beige-brick building behind it. Perhaps one of the scuffs on the floor of the classroom where Jacqueline sat was made by Judge Sotomayor. Perhaps not. It is impossible to know the depth of one woman's impact on the school, just as it is impossible to know how the school might have shaped her life or judicial thinking.
But the children wonder, and they imagine.
"Sometimes I think, 'What if I'm sitting at the same desk she sat in?'" said Branaijah Melvin, 11, one of 30 students attending summer school at Blessed Sacrament.
Much has been said about Judge Sotomayor's uniquely American journey, from the Bronx projects to Ivy League schools to Supreme Court nominee. Blessed Sacrament is a place where many such journeys begin.
In case you missed the first mention, Fernandez reminds us that
The judge was a stellar student at Blessed Sacrament. "Her attendance was immaculate," said Herminia Roman, the assistant principal, who was not at the school in those days but reviewed the judge's file.
Believe it or not, the profile of Sotomayor's elementary school was the story with the most solid connection to the judge. Fernandez really stretched for a Sotomayor connection on Wednesday in "A Start Like Sotomayor's, for a While at Least."
Lawyer Ramon Jiminez is not friends with the judge, has evidently not even met Sotomayor, but "their lives were once on parallel tracks." Stop the presses!
Ramon J. Jimenez watched Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings on the television in a corner of his law office Tuesday morning.
Their lives were once on parallel tracks, but have long since gone in different directions.
Both are children of working-class Puerto Rican parents. Judge Sotomayor, 55, graduated from Yale Law School in 1979; Mr. Jimenez, 60, graduated from Harvard Law School in 1974. Judge Sotomayor, a Bronx-born federal appeals court judge, is on the verge of becoming the third woman and the first Hispanic judge to sit on the United States Supreme Court; Mr. Jimenez is a Brooklyn-born lawyer whose Bronx office is upstairs from a bar near the corner of East 149th Street and the Grand Concourse.
For more than 30 years, Mr. Jimenez has been a South Bronx litigator and agitator, representing low-income families, injured workers, community groups and others in the poorest Congressional district in the country. Many of the cases he takes on pro bono. In recent years, he has earned about $40,000 a year.
Mr. Jimenez has been an outspoken critic of Bronx Democratic political leaders. He has sued the city, federal housing officials, landlords and labor leaders. On Tuesday, as Judge Sotomayor answered questions from senators about her "wise Latina" comment, the right to bear arms and the 14th Amendment, Mr. Jimenez was preparing for a meeting later in the evening with black and Latino workers at Woodlawn Cemetery who say they are being discriminated against.
"I feel a pride watching her," Mr. Jimenez said as he sat at the reception area in his office watching the hearings. "I think we took different directions in life, but I certainly feel a kinship. When you think about how many Puerto Ricans were in Ivy League law schools in the '70s, you have to feel a kinship."
And in case you're not convinced about the deep intertwined lives of Sotomayor and Jiminez, there's this:
Conservative critics have accused Judge Sotomayor of being a "judicial activist." Mr. Jimenez has been an unabashed municipal activist.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee debated lofty principles of law at Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings in Washington, justice was its usual inelegant yet vital self in the main courthouse of her home borough, about 240 miles and another world away from the political theater unfolding in the Hart Senate Office Building. There were thousands of little, everyday dramas for everyday people, small-scale victories and setbacks, delays and defeats.
A court calendar posted outside a ground-floor courtroom listed the nonpayment of rent cases the city's public housing agency had brought against two tenants at the Bronxdale Houses, where Judge Sotomayor had been raised years ago.
That's the connection that justifies the article. Really.
Fernandez concluded with two of the people at the courthouse that day with litigation before the court:
On her way out, [Sonia Collins] passed [Samuel] Afuakwah, who sat on the bench in the hall with his papers: two strangers in the Bronx, briefly connected not by a person, not even by a famous judge, but by a place.