Sonia Faces Rookie Challenges

Sonia Sotomayor may now don the robe—but in the Supreme Court, she's a freshman all over again. In the two months she has to prepare for her first case, she'll need to study up on a lot more than the law. Sotomayor will need to familiarize herself with court protocol and her duties as its newest member. She'll have to learn that when someone knocks on the door while the judges are in session, it's the newest judge who must answer it. And she'll also be responsible for taking notes on decisions, and reporting them accurately to the court clerk. Sotomayor will vote last when the judges vote on cases, which may give her the power to break a tie. She's also responsible for reaching out to the others, but when it comes to making friends, Sotomayor already has a lot in common with the other judges: Both she and Samuel Alito attended Princeton and Yale Law School, and she'll have fellow New Yorkers on the bench, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, respectively. Finally, she'll learn to navigate around the renovation site in the courthouse. As Alito remembers of his first few months: "I didn't know where anything was, how to get in or how to get out."