Justice Sotomayor insisted that Colorado youth be at the focus of her visit to Denver, so Mi Casa brought along six students from the Neighborhood Centers at Lake Middle School and North High. Other participants from Mi Casa’s business and career programs were also in attendance.
In introducing Justice Sotomayor, the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, Michael Bender explained, “Justice Sotomayor feels an urgent need to instill hope, dreams and the fruition of achievement among young people.”
In fact, after the event, Justice Sotomayor happily posed for a few “selfie” photos with youth from the North Neighborhood Center!
The event also highlighted the legacy of former Colorado governor Ralph Carr, who staked his political ambitions on the value of equality for all Colorado residents, a stance that ended up destroying his career.
Carr was governor of Colorado from 1939 to 1943, a period marked by vitriolic hatred and bigotry against people of Japanese descent. Carr stood up for Japanese Americans whom he felt were unjustly interred in the World War II era. Carr famously stated that the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that ALL people are created equal – not just those of western European descent. It was a stance that at the time cost him his career, but one that has earned him an illustrious spot in Colorado history.
“We should be inspired by Governor Carr and try to live up to the principles he stood for,” Chief Justice Bender told the crowd.
The new judicial center that bears Governor Carr’s name houses not only courtrooms and legal offices, the building is a community center of learning and exploration of the U.S. legal system. The Carr building includes a learning center, a public law library and is open to the community year round.
As Chief Justice Bender introduced Justice Sotomayor, he summarized her humble upbringing in the Bronx and her steady rise within the legal world. Appointed to the Supreme Court by President Obama in 2009, the first Hispanic and the third woman to sit on the nation’s highest court, “Justice Sotomayor brings to the bench not just great intelligence, but concern for the public, for youth, and for the wellbeing of the country as a whole,” said Bender.
In her remarks, Justice Sotomayor praised the stately new Colorado judicial center with its huge windows and views of the State Capitol and City and County Building. “People bring momentous questions to courthouses for resolution,” she said. “This building impresses upon people the importance of the work.”
She commented that it was no coincidence that the judicial center faced the Capitol. “These equal branches of government – legislative and judicial – must sometimes face off and stare each other down,” Sotomayor said. “This is precisely the balance of power that the Founding Fathers intended.”
Justice Sotomayor continued, “None are excluded, or should be, from the halls of justice. This building stands ready to serve the public whenever the need arises. Indeed, we exist, above all else, to serve the people. Colorado, this building is yours.”