David Souter never danced the salsa in public. John Paul Stevens doesn't sing in karaoke bars. And John Roberts hasn't thrown out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. But Sonia Sotomayor is all that and a bag of chips, and while the Supreme Court is all about the law, personalities matter. As the court begins its new term tomorrow, the justices will be dealing with a wild card: how Sotomayor and her effervescence may change things.
"It's like when you were little and a new kid joined the class," says a law professor. "There was always a little air of excitement because you didn't know how it would change the dynamic." Expected to side with the court's liberal bloc, Sotomayor is unlikely to affect the outcome in two high-profile cases: a challenge to limits on corporate campaign donations and a lawsuit seeking to nix Chicago's handgun ban. But Sotomayor will be watched closely to see whether her past as a prosecutor makes her more sympathetic to law enforcement in criminal cases.