NEW YORK — Sonia Sotomayor bathed in applause from friends and colleagues at a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan Thursday as the Senate voted to confirm her appointment to the Supreme Court.
The 55-year-old New Yorker watched the vote unfold on large-screen televisions in a conference room on the 8th floor overflowing with other judges and courthouse personnel. Sotomayor has worked in the building for years, first as a district judge and then on a federal appeals court.
Spectators said a misty-eyed Sotomayor fielded a call from her mother only moments after her confirmation was announced. She was overheard saying, "Mommy, I have people here," before having a brief conversation in Spanish.
As the gathering broke up, a beaming Sotomayor brushed off questions from reporters, telling them, "I'm going to be with my friends."
She was mobbed in the hallway by admirers – many wearing buttons reading "Justice Sonia" – who hugged her and jockeyed to pose with her for cell phone photos. After about 30 minutes, the newest justice disappeared into an elevator under the close watch of deputy U.S. marshals.
Sotomayor left the courthouse by car an hour later, waving to cameras as onlookers cheered.
The vote to make Sotomayor the high court's first Hispanic justice was also cheered by Puerto Rican patrons at the Fonda Boricua Lounge, in Manhattan's Spanish Harlem section.
When the vote came in, the crowd stood up and screamed.
"I'm extremely proud to be Puerto Rican today and watch history in the making," said Marina Ortiz, 50.
Evelyn Collazo, 62, wept after the vote. She said that as she watched, she was reminded of her late mother, who was a factory worker and social activist in the 1950s.
"I just thought of my mother, and she being here in spirit and just her struggles," she said.
Associated Press writer Cristian Salazar contributed to this report.