By any measure, Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto is a success. But his good fortune did not come easy – for him or for his family. The justice, one of four honorees recognized by the Puerto Rican Action Committee during Hispanic Heritage Month and the first Hispanic justice on the New Jersey Supreme Court, is a litigation partner in Ballard Spahr’s Cherry Hill office.

The youngest of three children, he was born in the charity ward of a New York City hospital. After failing to find opportunity in the United States, the justice’s father, an electrician and handyman, returned the family to Puerto Rico. Both parents instilled in him the importance of an education. An excellent student, the justice received a full scholarship to Haverford College and went on to attend law school at Cornell University.

“I remember as a kid, watching my parents sacrifice so that my brother, sister, and I could go to Catholic school for a decent education,” he said. “That stayed with me.”

Justice Rivera-Soto worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, worked in private practice, served as general counsel for the Sands Casino in Atlantic City, and was vice president and general counsel for ITT Sheraton Corporation’s gaming division in Los Angeles before being named to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where he served for seven years. He then joined Ballard Spahr.

“We all stand on the shoulders of the people who came before us,” Justice Rivera-Soto said. “It is important to tell folks about the richness of your background and all the people who came before you…Hispanic Heritage Month is important because those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.”

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