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Top Stories 2016: Supreme Court justice visits Orient

Sonia Sotomayor

How did Oysterponds Historical Society land U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as its special guest for this past summer’s Heritage Day celebration in Orient?

John Holzapfel, the historical society board’s president, simply wrote her a letter asking if she would participate in the event’s recitation of the Declaration of Independence following its Fourth of July parade — an annual tradition that dates back more than 200 years.

Mr. Holzapfel said he decided to reach out to Justice Sotomayor because he knew she was familiar with the community. For the past several years, he said, she has summered with one of her staffers, who recently retired and lives in Orient.

The historical society was asked to keep Justice Sotomayor’s visit a secret until the day of the parade. Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said his department worked with the U.S. Marshal Service to organize security, which included plain-clothes Secret Service agents.

Justice Sotomayor’s opening remarks at the July 7 event included calling on citizens to continue “making this a more perfect Union.” She is the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice and the third woman to be appointed. Last year, she ruled with the Supreme Court’s majority to grant same-sex couples the right to marry.

After Justice Sotomayor recited the beginning of the Declaration of Independence, the reading was completed by local residents Thomas Haley, Grace Griffin, Nate Stevenson, Ella Meredith-Jones, Jerie Newman and Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski.

File photo: Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor signs a copy of ‘Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx’ for nine-year-old Adelaide Swartz of Orient. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)