Widener Law celebrates "A Wise Latina"
Public Relations - Published: September 11, 2009


Widener Law alumna Sharon Lopez, ‘93


Dean of Students Keith Sealing shakes hands with Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes.


Sharon Lopez ’93 shows off her speaker’s gift to Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes

Nearly 200 people across both campuses of the Widener Law community gathered on Sept. 9 to mark the debut of Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the U.S. Supreme Court. [more photos available on Flickr]

The “Wise Latina Day” event coordinated by Harrisburg campus Dean of Students Keith Sealing drew students, alumni and friends from the legal community, particularly those with a Latino background. Distinguished guests included Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic justice, and only the third woman, to sit on the court.

Law Dean Linda L. Ammons, who was out of town, delivered a video message that began the program. She said Sotomayor, who was elevated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, was one of only two Latino federal appellate judges, at a time when Hispanics in the United States are on course to make up 30 percent of the population by 2050. Within that growing group are people who will need legal help and people who will aspire to be attorneys and judges.

“I want us to build bridges and form links that will be permanent connections between Widener University School of Law and the Hispanic community,” she said. “I believe strongly in the need to increase the diversity of the legal community.”

Alumna Sharon Lopez, a 1993 graduate of the Harrisburg campus, who chairs the Lancaster Bar Association diversity committee, said watching the Sotomayor confirmation hearings made her think about identity, integrity and inclusion.

“There is something different about coming from a place where no one else is doing it but you,” she said. “That identity is something she brought to the table.”

Lopez also credited Sotomayor for helping to bring new educational opportunities to young students of Puerto Rican descent, and inspiring even more youngsters to advance into legal education.

“I guarantee you Widener Law School will have more applicants from the Hispanic community because of Justice Sotomayor,” she said.

Other speakers included Associate Professor Michael R. Dimino Sr., who discussed the judicial selection process, Dean of Students Sealing, who discussed Ricci v. DeStefano, the 5-4 case known as the “New Haven firefighters’ case” in which the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Sotomayor’s upholding of a District Court affirmative action case involving promotions, and Professor Robert C. Power, who is also the associate dean for faculty research and development, on the case of the day: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

The event was presented by the Dean of Students Office and the Student Bar Association. It was shown on the Delaware campus via an interactive video link.