'This Week': Justice Sonia Sotomayor

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one with Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
7:45 | 06/22/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Now our "Closer look" at supreme court justice Sonia Sotomayor. She wrote about her remarkable life story in a best seller now out in paperback. Just last week end, she caught our attention again, with a surprise run-in with Hillary Clinton at costco. What did she reveal about one of the hottest issues before the court? George sat down with her this week. The book is so personal. Not what you would expect from a supreme court justice. You said you wrote it to hold on to the real Sonia. Yes. Did you succeed on your own terms? I think so. I told my friends, if I get too full of myself, I wrote a really thick book so you could hit me over the head with it. The hard cover one. The hard cover one, exactly. They promised me they will. My friends would have any way. She's been called the people's justice. One who throws out the first pitch at Yankee stadium. Hangs out on "The view." Call me Sonia. And just last weekend, shopping at costco. You run right into Hillary Clinton. It was not planned. I can assure you. Promise? I promise. Everyone is telling me, there were signs out front. I went through the side door, so there were no signs at the side door, hence, I didn't know. And a nice lady at the pharmacy counter recognized me and we started chatting. She says, are you here with the other lady. I said, what other lady? She mentioned madame secretary. That's how I found out. One more surprise on a remarkable and riveting journey. The girl who soared from the bronx projects to princeton. A young prosecutor, federal judge. And then the first hispanic justice on the supreme court. Congratulations. Welcome to the court. Every case, almost by definition that you end up taelg with is a matter of great national importance. Absolutely. It's a horribly big question. We are not doing things that make everyone happy. For every winner, there's a loser in a court case. You said one of the first times you realized things break down is when people lose the ability to imagine the other person's side. I tried very hard not to lose that here. Because you have to understand every justice is passionate about the same thing. We're passionate about the constitution. You see it in our opinions. And in moments where we're sort of sparring with each other. You think they're getting more sharp? That's what everybody is saying. I think that is a little bit a product of style. Some of my colleagues have a more pugnacious writing style than others. Justice Scalia? No, we have others, too. It can be fun sometimes to spar. Fiery, too. Especially on the hot button issue of affirmative action. When the court upheld the ban on racial preferences for college admissions, she spoke out. From the bench in dissent for the first time. Just a couple of months earlier, you said you didn't think that was a very good practice. What changed? Linda greenhouse. The supreme court reporter. She argued for the prose of speaking dissents from the bench. So what was the argument that convinced you? The argument was that it signals to the public in a way that nothing else can does that the question is different than what the majority hads thought. And I realize that in this fast paced internet world, reporters are no longer Reading about cases before they comment on them. For this justice, it is deeply personal. She knows affirmative action made a difference for her and believes it is still necessary today. There's been a lot of scholarly work now. That now say, you know what? It's not the best way to ensure diversity in schools. Maybe if you focused on where people live and how much money they make, you can get the same results in a way that is less fractious. Well, the problem with that answer is that it doesn't work. You don't believe it? It's not that I don't believe it. I don't think the statistics show it works. Just doesn't. If you saw it from the proposition that advantage ennures to a background that is privileged, it does. We have legacy admissions. If your parents or grandparents have been to school, they're going to give you an advantage in getting into the school again. Legacy admission is a wonderful thing because it means even if you're not as qualified as others, you're going to get that slight advantage. But what does qualifications mean in an academic setting? A place like princeton could fill their entire beginning freshman class with students who have scored perfectly on undergraduate metrics. They don't do it because it would not make for a diverse class on the metrics that they think are important. For success in life. I remember talking to president Obama about this a few years back. He's a supporter of affirmative action. He conceded that for example, his daughters, shouldn't get special consideration for their race because they have had so many other privileges. I agree. But even privileged people will show you dramatic accomplishment that doesn't go just to grades. You also write about some of the sexism you faced even As a prosecutor. Any as a supreme court justice or does it go away? It hasn't happened in awhile where somebody called me honey. People did on the federal bench. On the federal bench? Oh, yeah. And I'm sure that the marshal that called me honey thought it was a term of endearment. I'm sure he wouldn't find one or use it for a male judge. She's one of three female justices. We talked about the difference a woman judge makes, a woman justice makes. Do you think a woman president would make a big difference? Oh, probably at least in some little girl's perceptions of herself. And that is important enough. And you have seen that as a justice? I have. I can't tell you the letters I have gotten. From children. Talking about the impression that having me on the court has made on them. Part of a legacy still being written. You write at the end of the book, there are many more stories to tell before I can begin to say definitively who I am as a judge. You've been a judge for more than 0 years. You can't say who you are? It's changing every day. My colleague, justice John Paul Stephens, who I adore and think the world of, talked openly about the many opinions he has issued that he would write differently today. I hope that I will be able to point to things that I got wrong and felt, over time, with experience and greater knowledge, that I was flexible enough to admit that I was wrong then. And that I have gotten a better opinion today. That is for later. I would love to come back and talk to you about that. In 20 years you might. Thank you very much. I hope I'm here 20 years from

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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