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Bella DePaulo

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More about Sonia Sotomayor, From Someone Who Knew Her at Yale

Posted: 05/26/09 10:05 PM ET

One of my collaborators in the study of people who are single and the place of friendship in their lives and all of our lives is a law professor, Rachel Moran. So as soon as I heard that Sonia Sotomayor was Obama's Supreme Court nominee, I immediately sent Rachel an e-mail asking what she thought. At that moment, I had no idea that she knew Sotomayor.

What I got back was an intriguing first-person account. I then asked Rachel - a 1981 Yale Law School graduate, UC Berkeley chaired professor, and now a founding faculty member of the UC Irvine School of Law - if she would do a brief Q & A to share her impressions with others.

Bella DePaulo: How did you get to know Sonia Sotomayor?
Rachel Moran: Sonia was a year ahead of me at Yale. I got to know her through an organization called LANA (Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans). Believe it or not, at the time, there were so few members of these groups in the student body that we could not form separate organizations!

Bella DePaulo: What are your impressions of her? In the flurry of initial reports in the media, is there anything you know about her that has not yet gotten much attention?
Rachel Moran: She has a keen intellect, an articulate voice, and a sense of humor (though this is not usually mentioned in the press coverage). I think she will be a formidable presence on the Court, who will be a lively, engaging, and challenging colleague for the other Justices.

Bella DePaulo: I recently wrote a post about David Souter on my Living Single blog at Psychology Today, and this morning, reader Monica Pignotti posted this to the comments section: "I just watched Sonia Sotomayor's speech for her Supreme Court nomination and it was wonderful! She is a currently single woman and mention was made of all her friends and family who were surrounding her and gave her so much support, and no negative mentions by anyone at all in the commentaries I heard about her civil status. It is obvious she is a happy, fulfilled and much-loved single woman. It was great to see that this was acknowledged in the way she was introduced. Looks like there really is some progress being made here." What do you think?
Rachel Moran: I agree. More and more Americans are spending a substantial part of their adult lives as single people. The stigma of singlehood seems to have disappeared when it comes to qualifying for high office, both for men like David Souter and women like Sonia Sotomayor. A person's marital status is considered irrelevant to the ability to do the job. [Bella's aside: Still, some high-profile singles, such as Janet Napolitano, do get the Singles Treatment.] But it's still nice to have friends, including some in high places!

Bella DePaulo: Anything else you would like to add?
Rachel Moran: This moment is truly historic. I am sure that when we met as members of LANA all those years ago at Yale, none of us imagined that one of us someday would become the first person of Latino origin nominated to the Supreme Court. This is truly a mark of how far the legal profession has come in recognizing excellence in people with a range of backgrounds and experiences. This is definitely an occasion for celebration!

Bella DePaulo: Thanks so much, Rachel, for taking some time to share your observations. To readers who would like to know more about Rachel Moran, she is the author (with Devon Wayne Carbado) of Race Law Stories, a book about some of the most consequential legal decisions about race, and the stories behind them. She has also advocated for the return of citizen-lawyers.