Sonia Sotomayor, Pop-Culture Maven

From Annie Hall to Perry Mason, the confirmation hearings have been filled with film and TV references

I never thought the Sonia Sotomayor hearings would be a source of film and TV references, but yesterday we had the Annie Hall moment, and today we got this:

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…

“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.

I guess that’s plausible enough, but really — being inspired to become a defense attorney by Perry Mason is one thing, but this is the first I’ve ever heard of Hamilton Burger, the losingest prosecutor in the history of the criminal justice system, inspiring someone to become a prosecutor. Though as someone pointed out, Burger would probably be more likely to get appointed to the Supreme Court than Mason. The fact that he lost almost every case doesn’t stand in the way of his nomination, whereas Perry has all kinds of skeletons in his closet.


For those who are wondering, like Senator Franken, about the episode where Perry lost a case, I refer you to the Perry Mason Show Book. The episode in question is “The Case of the Deadly Verdict,” which was a pure ratings-stunt kind of thing: the trial takes place at the beginning of the episode, and though Perry comes out on top in the end, the episode is set up so the network could promote the hell out of it (“Perry Mason loses a case!”). As you can see from the above discussion, the promotion worked.