June 7th, 2010
05:08 PM ET
5 years ago

Sotomayor gets some friendly pronunciation help

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is among the most verbally adept justices; his father was a professor of Romance languages.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is among the most verbally adept justices; his father was a professor of Romance languages.

Washington (CNN) - Having trouble pronouncing an Italian word? If you sit on the Supreme Court, consult an expert.

On Monday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was announcing the court's opinion in Krupski v. Costa Crociere SpA (09-337), a lesser-known appeal dealing with the scope of the right to file an amended lawsuit to correct a mistake in a party's identity.

The newest justice was having trouble pronouncing the name of the cruise ship company at the center of the case.

Costa Cruises is a British and American-owned firm based in Genoa, Italy, where it is registered as Costa Crociere SpA. The appeal involved passenger Wanda Krupksi, who tripped over a cable and fractured her leg in 2007 aboard the Costa Magica.

At issue was whether Krupski should have sued Costa Cruises or Costa Crociere SpA in federal court.

The justice writing the majority ruling typically announces the decision from the bench in a public session, with a brief oral summary that supplements the official written opinion. That's where the fun began.

Sotomayor needed help and knew exactly where to turn.

"Costa Cruises responded that she should have sued a related company called Costa ... I'm going to ask my colleague Justice [Antonin] Scalia to say it right," Sotomayor said.

"Kroo-chee-ER-ay," said Scalia, who is of Sicilian descent and has written a book on how lawyers can shine verbally when presenting their appeals before judges.

"Kroo-chee-ER-ay," the first Hispanic justice slowly but correctly repeated. "I want to put the Spanish accent on it."

Sotomayor has privately told friends that she was pleasantly surprised when joining the court at how friendly and collegial her benchmates have been, welcoming her to their exclusive club.

Scalia is among the most verbally adept justices, peppering his bench remarks with humor and well-reasoned legal conclusions. His father was a professor of Romance languages in Queens, New York.

Sotomayor, meanwhile, was honored over the weekend in the Bronx, where she grew up. She visited her grade school and then attended a ceremony at the Bronxdale Houses public housing project. It has now been renamed the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses and Community Center. She was visibly moved when talking about growing up there and meeting the late Robert F. Kennedy, who had come there in 1958 to tour the projects.

The justice, who turns 56 this month, also gave the commencement address at Hostos Community College, where her mother graduated with a nursing degree in 1974. It has primarily served the Spanish-speaking community in New York.

By the way, in the Crociere case, the high court ruled unanimously for Krupski.

"Costa Crociere should have known that Krupski's failure to name it as a defendant in her original complaint was due to a mistake concerning the proper party's identity," Sotomayor said, with admirable pronunciation.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. No Incumbents 2010

    Scalia is good at putting a woman justice in her place.

    June 7, 2010 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  2. Billy W.

    Wow, Justice Scalia is good for something, at least Italian pronunciation!

    June 7, 2010 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  3. Pragmatic

    First the "perfect game" pitcher and the very wrong umpire handled their incident with dignity that was an excellent example: (the comish? not so much)

    Now congeniality on the Supreme Court! Refreshing and positive! I have a list of candidates and politicians who should be taking notes! More civility! I want more! more! more! Disagree without being disagreeable!

    June 7, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  4. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    Antonin isn't worthless after all.

    June 7, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  5. jay in denver

    I disagree with almost every one of his rulings, but I cannot deny Scalia's sense of humor. I could spend an evening debating with this guy over pasta and vino and we'd both probably have a splendid time.

    June 7, 2010 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |