July 15th, 2009
12:26 PM ET
5 years ago

Sotomayor: 'Perry Mason' influenced her to become a prosecutor

WASHINGTON (CNN) – An episode of the television show "Perry Mason" influenced a young Sonia Sotomayor to become a prosecutor, she testified Wednesday at her confirmation hearing to become the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.

Sotomayor, 55, said the program starring Raymond Burr as a successful defense attorney awakened her to the fundamental role of the law.

She cited one particular episode, in which the Perry Mason character - after winning yet another case - consoles beleaguered prosecutor Hamilton Burger by noting it must be hard to expend such effort only to have charges dismissed.

"No, my job as a prosecutor is to do justice, and justice is served when a guilty man is convicted and an innocent man is not," she quoted the prosecutor as saying.

"That TV character said something that motivated my choices in life," Sotomayor said.

The original television show, based on the fictional character created by Erle Stanley Gardner, ran from 1957-66. There also were films and later television shows based on the Perry Mason character.

Later in the hearing, the newest member of the Senate and the Judiciary Committee - former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Al Franken - told Sotomayor he also watched "Perry Mason" as a child and asked if she knew of the one episode in which Mason lost the case.

"I wish I could remember the name of that case," Sotomayor said with a laugh, to which a deadpan Franken replied: "Didn't the White House prepare you?"

Several Web sites devoted to the show say there are two episodes in which Perry Mason loses to Hamilton Burger - "The Case of the Terrified Typist" and "The Case of the Deadly Verdict." But there is dissension as to whether the famous defense attorney really lost in the end, as Perry apparently manages to clear one of his clients afterward.


Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Spoken like a true New Yorker. Who didn't watch Perry Mason or Matlock growing up in NYC?

    July 15, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Obama=disaster

    Oh that's just great!! she was influenced by a tv show. She makes her legal decisions based on fiction. Great choice! The more I hear about this woman the more I think Obama made a terrible choice in choosing her. Typical Obama!

    July 15, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. Obama is not character he plays on TV

    Raymond Burr was not really a lawyer...

    July 15, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. Republicans are the American Taliban

    Better than the Republicans who get their motivation from Wile E. Coyote cartoons.....

    July 15, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. Danny E. Gonzalez

    This is a good person. a courageous woman that is living the american dream and that is doing a valuable service to all of us. she is a product of our society and an example of the best we can produce in this country. I believe she will be confirmed and I believe that the supreme court is gaining an amazing mind.

    July 15, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  6. Surge

    What a cynical move to use a white male american tv icon to appeal to the white male majority questioning her.

    July 15, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  7. obama sucks

    Just like the liberals were influence by the communist party in Russia and the facist party In Germany

    July 15, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  8. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Hey, I watched LA Law all the time, can I be a Supreme Court Justice too?

    July 15, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    The balding ol' darksuits are still asking women about abortion.

    These ol codgers have yet to pop a kid, so what gives them any right to question women's bodies?

    July 15, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. Lowell

    But the prosecutor on that show lost every case but one...

    That really didn't make the district attorney's office there look very good.

    July 15, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. Mississippi Mike

    Great, that's just like how Jackie Chan influenced me to fight crime in Hong Kong. The more I get to know her the less I think she's fit for the Supreme Court.

    July 15, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. SlowGun

    @Mike, Syracuse, NY July 15th, 2009 12:46 pm ET

    Hey, I watched LA Law all the time, can I be a Supreme Court Justice too?

    -----------------------------
    No, Sorry Mike...along with a lot of other requirements, to be a Supreme Court Justice, you have to be somewhat intelligent, so you don’t qualify. But hey...you do qualify to be the Republican Vice-president nominee!

    July 15, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. Kevin B

    Judge Sotamayor is running circles around these GOP clowns, this nomination was a brilliant choice by Mr Obama. If GOP didn't spend all of thier time playing "gotcha" maybe the american public would begin to take them seriously.

    The GOP has become a party of right wing conspiracy nuts and america hating reactionaries.

    Too bad...............

    July 15, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  14. You lose all credibility when you say Palin is smart

    Mike, Syracuse, NY,

    Did you go to school, do you have experience as a judge?

    No, you just troll CNN posts and think your funny.

    Sadly, your just a blip on the radar.

    July 15, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. The Other Michael in Houston

    How stupid do you Republicans sound right about now. She said watching Perry Mason influenced her to become a lawyer. She knows it's fictional. And you wonder why only 28% of you still exsist.

    July 15, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. Expat American

    Mississippi Mike July 15th, 2009 12:52 pm ET
    Great, that's just like how Jackie Chan influenced me to fight crime in Hong Kong.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Gotta hand it to you (ergo: I have got to hand it to you*), that was pretty funny.

    *You never know with these grammar cops wandering about!

    July 15, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  17. Kevin in Ohio

    Wake up America...read the comments below and you will see that left-wing liberals espouse total and utter hatred of any dissent whatsoever. Is this the America you want? I have no doubt that if Sarah palin had said the same thing, she would have been crucified here and in the liberal press.

    July 15, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. makesUwonder

    Listening to this woman one can only guess that she uses the spin doctors as Obama.

    July 15, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. mike

    First of all, this isn't news-worthy. Second, just because she was inspired to take the steps necessary to begin her career from a TV show doesn't mean she hasn't gone through all of the appropriate qualifications to become a credible prosecutor. When I was in high school, Star Trek inspired me to learn about technology ... I then picked Electrical Engineering as my college major. I did very well in all of my classes, and I then landed a great job as an engineer. Just because I was originally inspired by a TV show doesn't mean I'm not a good engineer now.

    July 15, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. Go Sonia, Go

    She'll make a wonderful justice. Someday we'll look back and say "What was all the fuss about?"

    I can't wait until this justice is sworn into the court. She'll make us all proud.

    July 15, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. makesUwonder

    Kevin B July 15th, 2009 12:58 pm ET

    Judge Sotamayor is running circles around these GOP clowns, this nomination was a brilliant choice by Mr Obama. If GOP didn't spend all of thier time playing "gotcha" maybe the american public would begin to take them seriously.

    The GOP has become a party of right wing conspiracy nuts and america hating reactionaries.

    Too bad…………
    ------------------
    Really, it's time for you to get your head out of that sand hole where the Koolaid abusers rest their weary heads.

    July 15, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. Fair is Fair

    And a lot of dope smokers watched Cheech and Chong too. Her point?

    July 15, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. johnnie

    (CNN) needs to have , john king , alex canstanellos, gloria borger.. candi spokepreson crowley and that (jeffery tobin is making it up as he goes) needs to watch some (Perry Mason Episodes)his run on (TV) was from 1957 to 66, i wonder how long their (RUN) is going to be on CNN? This so called experts are just to funny, they are so easy to see, that the (GOP) is their mentor. They have no talking points that have true subtance on the hearings.And it is alot of ,who is next to say something that does not hold water. There is nothing they can find negative to stick on (Judge Sotomayor) so they do the (right wing ) nonsense. (CNN) get a grip, where is Roland Martin? Forget Don Lemon ,he is to worried about his status at (cnn). It is becoming a(Nitemare) for CNN to have these so called moderators ,making remarks with no validity. CNN needs new ,fresh , and real moderators , not that old (LAME) group of the past. Come CNN get it together, their might be some (HOPE) if you accept (CHANGE)

    July 15, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  24. Samuel

    Who cares what she watched as a kid? The fact remains that she was overturned by the SCOTUS and she made racist statements and rulings. Lets not confirm her because of her past actions just like Giethner shouldnt have been confirmed because of his past tax evasion issues.

    July 15, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  25. LoLo

    Some of your comments are ridiculous. The show inspired her to take the career path that she is in now. Some of you people need to grow up.

    July 15, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
1 2 3