capable of being treated as fact
Joining the DA’s Office had represented a chance to be a practicing lawyer right away and to play a
tangible part in protecting the public.
as a customary requirement only
As a homicide novice, I couldn’t have led the prosecution, but Hugh Mo, the senior assistant DA in charge, ensured that my second-seat role was far from
an unvarying or habitual method or procedure
The press had so dubbed the perpetrator because his
modus operandi included swinging through a victim’s apartment window from a rope secured to the roof.
a disposition to behave in a certain way
We argued that our purpose was to show not criminal
propensity but rather proof of identity: given the rare level of physical strength and agility required for the acrobatics common to all the incidents, we could reasonably claim that this element, not unlike a signature modus operandi, identified Maddicks as the perpetrator.
His partner Clemente D’Alessio cut a much less sympathetic figure, stocky with slicked-back hair and a pockmarked face, a
garish gold crucifix hanging on his chest.
doubt about someone's honesty
I tried to put myself in the jurors’ shoes and anticipate any possible
misgiving or misunderstanding.
refuse to comply
balk at the circumstantial nature of the evidence against D’Alessio?
suggesting that something is true without proving it
Would they balk at the
circumstantial nature of the evidence against D’Alessio?
propriety in manners and conduct
Arriving for my first interview, I was struck by the aura of the place—a midtown oasis of restrained elegance. George Pavia, the founder’s son and now managing partner, was said to be fond of continuity, and the
decorum of the offices befitted a roster of clients whose names were synonymous with European luxury and high style…
resembling an uncle in kindness or indulgence
Just as I had done with John Fried at the District Attorney’s Office, I turned to Dave instinctively as a guide. His presence was comforting,
avuncular, and expansive.
thoroughly acquainted through study or experience
It was through his instruction that I became
versed in a complex and little-understood area of the law.
the hearing and determination of a dispute by a referee
He had worked hard to institute more evenhanded
arbitration practices that tempered the influence of the big grain houses.
As a professor, she noted, she had been writing
prolifically her whole career.
not admitting of passage or capable of being affected
Hallway conversations could be carried on right outside my door, because I was the only person
impervious to distraction, completely unaware.
written declaration made under oath
I showed Fran how to work up an
affidavit. She wrote most of the briefs.
wealth as evidenced by sumptuous living
It was my first time at a restaurant of such stellar
opulence, and I was thrilled by the experience, though sad to see that Fran could barely eat.
a stipulated condition
The good news came with a curious
proviso, words that have stuck in my mind. “It’s clear that you won’t stay in private practice forever," George said. “We know you’re destined for the bench someday. Dave is even convinced you’ll go all the way to the Supreme Court. But with this offer, we ask only that you remain with us as long as you continue in private practice.”
lying face upward
Exhausted, I needed to lie down for a few minutes. I didn’t feel right, light-headed, but once
supine I couldn’t get my body to move.
a systematic plan for therapy
All through college, law school, and my years at the DA’s Office, I would stick with essentially the same
regimen I’d had as a child.
Somehow, after I checked into my hotel room, my blood sugar dropped
precipitously, and I passed out.
strong feelings of embarrassment
“I am the doctor; you are the patient,” he insisted, as Alessandro translated with
a standard or typical example
But I’ve come to see that it does begin and end with my mother, who became my most constant emotional
paradigm, informing my character for good and for ill, as well as the character of my relations with her.
a disposition to be distant and unsympathetic in manner
This was the cold image I’d lived with and formed myself in response to, unhappily adopting the
aloofness but none of the glamour.
tall, thin, and awkward
Even as the kids grew into
gangly teenagers, the hugs never stopped.
conduit that carries a rapid flow of water
The stroke on the arm that says I understand, the welcome hug, the good-bye kiss, the embrace that lingers that much longer in a time of sorrow. I’ve discovered the palpable difference between such acts as mere gestures and as
sluices of true feeling between two people.
standing above others in quality or position
“Humor me, Sonia. They’re looking for qualified Hispanics. You’re not only a qualified Hispanic but
eminently qualified, period.”
temperamentally seeking and enjoying the company of others
He turned out to be so forthright and
gregarious that I warmed to him at once.
presenting favorable circumstances
After a couple of blocks I saw a monumental flight of stairs, familiar white columns: the Supreme Court Building glowing serenely, like a temple on a hill. There could not have been a more
of or involving the common people rather than those in power
The Hispanic National Bar Association lobbied the White House steadily and rallied
grassroots support from other Latino organizations.
characterized by strong enthusiasm
If confirmed, I would be the first Hispanic federal judge in the state’s history, a milestone the community
ardently wished to achieve (José Cabranes had very nearly claimed the honor in 1979 but was simultaneously nominated for a judgeship in Connecticut and chose to serve there instead, though much later he would take a New York seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals).
being truly so called; real or genuine
Even before Senator Moynihan had settled on my name for the nomination, a
veritable This Is Your Life cast of backers came forward: my fellow board members at PRLDEF, Bob Morgenthau and others at the DA’s Office, Father O’Hare and colleagues on the Campaign Finance Board, lawyers I’d known through mutual clients.
as a formality only
The public induction ceremony followed in October. Though brief—perhaps all of five minutes—it was far from
put on clothes
Every moment of it moved me deeply:
donning the black robe, swearing solemnly to administer justice without respect to persons, equally to the poor and the rich, and to perform my duties under the Constitution faithfully and impartially.
deserving of respect or high regard
I took, for that occasion only, the traditional newcomer’s seat between the chief judge, Charles Brieant, and Judge Constance Baker Motley, the next most senior of the
estimable colleagues I was joining.
unrestrained by convention or propriety
I still couldn’t believe this had worked out as dreamed, and I felt myself almost an impostor meeting my fate so
disgrace or shame
But when I sat down, I noticed that my knees were still knocking together. I could hear the sound and wondered in complete mortification whether the microphone set in front of me on the table was picking it up. I was listening to the lawyers, too, of course, as the telltale tapping under the table continued, a disembodied nuisance and
a concluding action
When I placed my hand on the Bible, taking the oath of office to become a district court judge, the ceremony marked the
culmination of one journey of growth and understanding but also the beginning of another.
a minor weakness or peculiarity in someone's character
If you held to principle so passionately, so inflexibly, indifferent to the particulars of circumstance—the full range of what human beings, with all their flaws and
foibles, might endure or create—if you enthroned principle above even reason, weren’t you then abdicating the responsibilities of a thinking person?
put up with something or somebody unpleasant
There are, likewise, certainly values that
brook no compromise, and I would count among them integrity, fairness, and the avoidance of cruelty.
a behavioral attribute peculiar to an individual
But I have never accepted the argument that principle is compromised by judging each situation on its own merits, with due appreciation of the
idiosyncrasy of human motivation and fallibility.