Affirmative action is the single thread throughout her life. This is not 'merit alone'.
And with each new job that affirmative action got her , she gained a new 'Rabbi' or two.
Just check all the references to affirmative action and powerful personal recommendations in the article.
And look at how they portray Moynihan. A precursor of Obama; one of the first to use 'empathy' in decision making. A fellow Catholic and an Ivy Leaguer, how grand !
Just change the references a bit and it gets a bit more odious ... a fellow Jew and from the same school, who would think this good decision making?... or a gentleman from the 'right' type of family from the 'right' private schools and an Alumni of Princeton .
Merit Alone. Indeed !
Sotomayor Rose on Merit Alone, Her Allies Say
New York City in the 1980s was a place defined by party fiefs and political bosses, and high-profile public jobs were a coin of their realm.
Driven by her own ambitions, she worked as an assistant district attorney and a corporate lawyer, all the while building her public résumé: a seat on a city commission, another on a state board, which might allow her to take a bigger step in years to come.
The Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, who recruited her from Yale Law School, said the comforts of corporate law held no great attraction for her. And Ms. Sotomayor’s lifelong struggle with diabetes lent a sense of urgency.
“It made her think, ‘I’m not going to be around forever, I have to keep moving,’ ” Mr. Morgenthau said. “I remember talking with her about how much time each day, about an hour, she spent giving herself shots of insulin.”
If one wants to understand Ms. Sotomayor’s journey from boutique corporate lawyer to strikingly young federal judge, the eight-year stretch from 1984 to 1992 offers the best window into her maturation as a public figure. Her service on the city’s Campaign Finance Board was vigorous, as she joined decisions that challenged three present or future mayors of both parties.
She rose with remarkably little help from the traditional arbiters of power. Party bosses recall nothing of her, and aides to Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Mayor Edward I. Koch lay no claim to having discovered her.
Rather, she found an influential patron in Mr. Morgenthau. Even after she left his office in 1984 and entered private practice, he would make the phone calls that helped her gain a seat on the Campaign Finance Board and catch the eye of United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a candidate for federal judge at age 38.
Her generational timing, too, was fortuitous. She was an accomplished Latina lawyer at a time when officials sought to diversify the white power structure by promoting more blacks, Latinos and women.
“If you live in the end of the 20th century, there was nothing incompatible between diversity and excellence,” said Judah Gribetz, the lawyer who ran the judicial search committee for Senator Moynihan, who proposed Ms. Sotomayor for the federal bench. “Obviously we were looking for people who were representative, and with the right credentials.
“She,” he added, “fit the bill.”
Ms. Sotomayor put her foot in public waters in 1987, while she worked at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. A partner there, David Botwinik, and his childhood friend Mr. Gribetz mentioned her interest in public service to Governor Cuomo. She explored applying for the counsel’s job at the state’s Urban Development Corporation, where she talked with the departing counsel, Susan Heilbron.
“She blew my socks off,” recalled Ms. Heilbron, who said she told Ms. Sotomayor, “With all due respect, the kind of public service you ought to be doing is bigger than this.”
So the governor’s appointments secretary, Ellen E. Conovitz, recommended that Ms. Sotomayor serve as a board member of Sonyma, the state mortgage agency, which provided below-market-rate mortgages for the needy. After several years of lackluster leadership, the board needed a new direction. As well, Ms. Conovitz said, the Cuomo administration sought more blacks, Latinos and women.
Ms. Sotomayor, by the account of board members, was a dogged member, pushing to direct more funds to lower-income homeowners. “She was the youngest board member but extremely involved in the details,” recalled William B. Eimicke, then the state’s housing czar.
Ms. Sotomayor’s political persona hewed carefully to the contours of New York, liberal but not particularly ideological. And, unusual in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans five to one, she registered as an independent; her lack of a party label played a role in her next appointment, to the Campaign Finance Board in 1988.
Responding to the city’s corruption scandals, the mayor and City Council had created the board as an institutional sheriff, which regulated campaign spending and doled out matching funds.
Mayor Koch was given two appointments, a Democrat and an independent or Republican. Peter L. Zimroth, who was the mayor’s corporation counsel, wanted a board member with a prosecutorial background and called Mr. Morgenthau.
Mr. Morgenthau mentioned Ms. Sotomayor. She would be the only candidate interviewed by Mr. Zimroth.
“I remember when I finished the interview thinking that we had found a gem, that this was a straight shooter, a very serious lawyer who seemed absolutely independent,” he said.
In the next four years, the board ruled toughly in cases that chastised, fined or audited the campaigns of Mayor Koch, his successor, David N. Dinkins, and a future mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and Ms. Sotomayor emerged as a demanding member. “She had no patience for candidates who tried the ‘dog ate my homework’ defense,” said Nicole A. Gordon, a former executive director of the board.
Nor was she inclined to cut herself physical slack.
“She was very tenacious,” a former board chairman, the Rev. Joseph A. O’Hare, recalled with a chuckle. “We would be in a tense interview with a candidate and she would be shooting herself with insulin in the back of the hand.”
In 1992, Ms. Sotomayor entered a prestigious sweepstakes, submitting an application for federal judge. In what is a recurring theme, two friends say it was an almost accidental elevation. “She didn’t talk about the next step being a judgeship,” said Dawn Cardi.
But familiar patrons made her case and her timing was good. Senator Moynihan had made it clear he wanted more female and minority candidates.
Mr. Gribetz and Mr. Botwinik again forwarded her name, this time to Senator Moynihan. Mr. Morgenthau called as well.
Mr. Gribetz is blunt. “Let’s talk about how judges are made,” he said. “Sonia had no political connections and did not come through the political process, but these were social friends of mine. I trusted them.”
Connections of a different sort aided her with the senator. They both hailed from Catholic working-class neighborhoods and had achieved academic honors: He had been a Harvard professor, and she had won the highest award given to undergraduates at Princeton.“He told me he was absolutely convinced she would end up on the Supreme Court,” said a top former aide to the senator. “He got his bet in early on that one.”