July 15th, 2009
12:26 PM ET
9 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. Hugo

    Wouldn't it be awesome if Sotomayor is on the bench and at the end of this rein of taxation terror and United States citizens finally get a glimpse of Obama's school records and passport documents that reveal his dual Indonesian citizenship? Then everything this "President" has done under the guise of a legal sitting president goes out the window....
    I think I am finally getting this liberal philosophy, if you haven't done anything to improve yourself or your life, make sure that you take the earnings from someone that has. Liberals, isn't it funny how the name entirely misrepresents the meaning of their ideology? She is racially and gender biased and the GOP is afraid they may offend their shrinking voter base by calling a Pig in a poke a Pig in a poke...

    July 15, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. A. Goodwin

    The party of "NO" at it again. Fact is, nomatter what this woman does or does not do...since she was nominated by a Democratic president – you Rethuglican's will never give her the chance. We should be so proud that we are nominating the first Latina woman to the bench...yet Rethulican's cannot get past their agenda to acknowladge how extraordinary this woman truly is. The most disturbing part of this is the fact that by being such naysayers without true warrant...the Republican's are subtly inferring that they continue to follow a racist agenda. You would think Republican's would understand that by portraying this woman in such a way as they have, they will push away many Latino's from the Republican party or were thinking about making the move to the Republican party.

    July 15, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. zap01

    In case you missed her statement or spin it. She said a statement by the prosecuter influenced her decision to become one. Now, go back up and reread it. If you find you can not understand it, query a fifth grader to explain it to you. Instantly, the "republicans" take what they want from a comment or speach, spin it hard right, an feed it to the public. Selective reading and hearing fails to apply all the facts. Remember, this is the same woman your hero Bush appointed.

    July 15, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Good God! Are some of you simple-minded, sorry- excuse- for- anything, Mississippi Mike types really serious? Naw, you could'nt be. No one could flat-line as much as you guys pretend to, nor be so obtuse.

    She was POSITIVELY inspired by someone. Fictitious or real person is not the point when the outcome of such inspiration was this remarkably accomplished woman. A woman, by the way ,that stands glaringly in contrast to the depiction of beer-drinking, wetback Hispanics that some of you on these blogs have so smugly expressed.

    Now, don't you wish someone, ANYONE, had inspired you to accomplish half as much? Thought so.

    July 15, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  5. Todd in Georgia

    And growing up she also read Nancy Drew!

    July 15, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. Stuffit

    Republicans are the American Taliban July 15th, 2009 12:38 pm ET

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

    As lame as they are, American Taliban or not, those Repugs that you hate so much are our last line of defense to government taking over everything in sight. Give them a break.

    July 15, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    Sorry, wrong article, but this bears rebutting:

    "Looks like with the latest proposals to tax the wealthy, there won't be any more they will move, or shut their businesses. Libs are making it counter intuitive to try to succeed."

    If you don't think that allowing the wealthy in corporate america and those with massive ownership interests in land and corporations to hoard our nation's wealth by gifting us with several decades of stagnant average middle-class salaries, health care costs inflating three times as fast as the rest of the economy, exobritant interest rates, hidden and/or excessive fees, ridiculous loan terms, and instigation and promotion of the bubbleburst economic cycle...if all those things don't strike you as making success counterintuitive for the vast vast majority of Americans, then you are probably one of the culprits (or at least one of their patsies).

    July 15, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  8. Gwen, NY

    @ Obama=Disater

    Are you kidding me, what person hasn't been influenced by TV? She was a child. A lot of people select their professions based on characters from television. My dad became a fireman because of what he saw on TV. Boys join the military because of games that they played as children, or what they saw on TV. A young girl from the Bronx saw Perry Mason and said "I want to do that". I'm glad she did.

    Like your name is wrong, your thoughts are wrong. Obama is NOT a disaster and Sonia will make an excellent Supreme Court Justice, based on her dreams as a child to be like the characters on Perry Mason. Also remember there were no Latina judges on TV at that time, so she really had to stretch her imagination. Thank God for us she did.

    July 15, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. SlowGun

    @Surge July 15th, 2009 12:44 pm ET

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


    What a cynical way to look at her statement.

    28% left and dropping!

    July 15, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. Sniffit

    @ Mike, Syracuse

    LA Law? Fine, but apparently, you didn't watch enough stand-up...

    July 15, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. Terry from West Texas

    This story brought out the cheapest of cheap shots from the grandstand out there. I was inspired by the Lone Ranger when I was a kid. Many space scientists and astronomers started as kids watching Star Trek. Sports fans claim to be inspired by pro-sports heroes, which I guess is believable, though I personally don't get it. Children are set on a path toward adulthood by experiences like these.

    For the person who wrote: "Just like the liberals were influence by the communist party in Russia and the facist party In Germany." You need to become better acquainted with the truth.

    For the person who wrote: "What a cynical move to use a white male american tv icon to appeal to the white male majority questioning her." Why couldn't she simply be telling the truth? Do you have some reason to believe otherwise? Did you monitor her TV favorites during her girlhood?

    July 15, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. bsmith171

    she heard that on a TV show.
    this remark has been made many, many times.

    July 15, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. Mark Cross Junction VA

    Perry Mason? This nut case is a threat to anyone who believes in freedom. You can tell by her responses (coaching) that she has a personality conflict with white individuals.

    July 15, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  14. 2 BLIND MICE!!!

    @Mike, Syracuse, NY July 15th, 2009 12:46 pm ET and
    Obama=disaster July 15th, 2009 12:38 pm ET
    Watch Fox news a nice Cartoon ..... Now shut your sour Pie Holes!!!

    July 15, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  15. normajean

    Make fun all you want but we all are inspired to do something in our lives by some thing or some one we come in contact with or we would just sit around all day and do nothing. What made you want to be a writer, or a teacher or even a politician? Somewhere,somehow you got the idea{were inspired}. To say "she makes her decisions based on fiction is just plain stupid and shows you haven't anything intellegent to say.

    July 15, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  16. Perry fan

    I loved Perry Mason growing up. I named my first pet – a parakeet – after him!!!

    Surge – back then, the tv shows were all white male dominated. she's simply reflecting our cultural background. If you don't like it, don't blame her.

    But you gotta admit it was gripping to see if Perry could break the real perp on the stand every episode....and justice is served!!!!

    July 15, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  17. JoJo

    I am a Matlock fan myself. From what I heard he hasn't lost a case, but Perry Mason did. Since she is President Obama's choice, I wonder what her reaction would be when the case of President Obama's legitimacy as a native born citizen reach her desk. It was introduced last week in a Los Angeles court.

    July 15, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  18. Michigan Jim

    Dear Dems,

    The proper contraction for "you are" is "you're," not "your."

    July 15, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. Aunt Bea and Opie

    We were proud republicans when Andy was sheriff.Then the neocons stole the party and wanted to do nothing but start wars for profit and take over our government to fill their pockets with our money.

    July 15, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. charles

    "obama sucks July 15th, 2009 12:45 pm ET

    Just like the liberals were influence by the communist party in Russia and the facist party In Germany
    Actually, republicans are influenced by fascists in Germany. Nazi nationalism is only more extreme than bush conservatism. Which is worse? We all know that answer.

    July 15, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. Matt in CT

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

    What a mature comment – you must have pulled that straight from your elementary school years, right?

    July 15, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. Fredrick from OH

    Good lord

    July 15, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. addon

    Are the Republicans...even those posting here....saying as children they've never watched tv and found fictional characters to be inspirational?

    Where do these people come from? Certainly not this planet. No wonder their return to power is as much in doubt as their very existence. Thank goodness for the exiting of this party and its followers for this country's power structure.

    July 15, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  24. linda

    The lady, like most of us as youngsters watched tv shows that were fiction; most all fiction has a hero.
    So all you nay sayers get over yourself.
    She posesses more brains in one cell than most of the nasty folks posess period.

    July 15, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  25. Didi

    I think a lot of kids watched TV growing up, and many were influenced by it. But Sotomayor ALSO has degrees from Princeton and Yale, in addition to 17 years of judicial experience, so it's not like she just rolled out of bed one day after watching Perry Mason and decided to be on the SCOTUS. Some of you people need to get a clue.

    July 15, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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