Leahy Asks Sotomayor to Clarify 'Wise Latina' Remark
By Shailagh Murray
In his first meeting this morning with Sonia Sotomayor, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy asked the Supreme Court nominee to clarify a controversial statement that has drawn heavy Republican criticism.
The Vermont Democrat said he asked the 54-year-old judge what she meant when she stated in a 2001 University of California-Berkeley speech, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."
Some conservatives, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have interpreted the statement to mean that Sotomayor relies on personal experiences in her judicial decision making; a few even suggest it carries racist overtones. Leahy said he asked Sotomayor for clarification. He said the nominee responded, "Of course one's life experience shapes who you are," but she added, "Ultimately and completely, a judge has to follow the law no matter what their upbringing has been."
The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, met later with Sotomayor, and said she used similar language when he asked her about "the concept of personal feelings to some degree, how that influenced a decision, how it should not."
But Sessions said the two spent more time discussing Sotomayor's legal career, as well as "the moral authority of laws and judges." Sessions said "she discussed that forthrightly and I thought in an effective way." The senator said he expected the two would meet again, once he has a chance to review her nomination dossier, including more than 3,000 decisions from the federal bench. "I enjoyed the conversation," said Sessions. "I think she did."
Web Politics Editor
June 2, 2009; 1:40 PM ET
Categories: B_Blog , Barack Obama , Supreme Court
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