When the Yalies who make up a third of the Supreme Court were honored at their alma mater Saturday, law professor Kate Stith tried to think of different questions that might personalize Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Sonia Sotomayor.
Which somehow led Sotomayor to talk about salsa dancing.
The justice, whose family hails from Puerto Rico, said that as an appeals court judge, she was often invited to Hispanic events where salsa was being played. But she was a “potted plant” who never learned the steps.
So around age 50, Sotomayor took lessons and made a discovery: “I cannot keep a beat to save my life. But I have a facility that some of my colleagues would find very strange: I can follow.”
Amid the laughter, Sotomayor said that what she needs is a partner who can lead.
“Among Hispanic men, the best dancers in terms of keeping a beat are Dominicans, the worst are Cubans,” Sotomayor continued. “Dominicans have big, big steps--”
A doubled-over and guffawing Thomas interrupted: “That’s profiling!”
“It is, but it proves itself right a lot,” Sotomayor continued. “Cubans have these very tight little steps. Never dance with a Cuban. And Puerto Ricans I can dance with, too.”
It was the perfect set-up for the conservative Alito, with whom liberal Sotomayor frequently disagrees.
“It’s a revelation to know that Sonia likes to follow,” Alito said. “I think we’re going to start dancing in the conference room.”