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Judge Sotomayor Gets a Chance to Participate in the 'Wise Latina' Debate

Posted by Christie Turner, MARGARET Fund Fellow | Posted on: July 14, 2009 at 06:27 pm

by Christie Turner, MARGARET Fund Fellow, 
National Women's Law Center 

This post is part of a series about the nomination of Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

This morning Judge Sonia Sotomayor finally had a chance to respond to the controversy surrounding her so-called “wise Latina” speech, about which, as Judge Sotomayor herself noted, “no words I have ever spoken or written have received so much attention.” Judge Sotomayor strongly and clearly stated her belief that life experiences help a judge to understand certain facts in a case, but that the law commands the results.

Senator Leahy noted that other justices, “[our] most recent one”—referring obviously to Justice Alito here—“talk[ed] about the experiences of . . . immigrants in his family and how that would influence his thinking and help him reach decisions.” When Senator Leahy gave Judge Sotomayor a chance to discuss her prior remarks, she set the record straight:

“I want to state up front unequivocally and without doubt I do not believe that any racial, ethnic or gender group has an advantage in sound judging. I do believe that every person has an equal opportunity to be a good and wise judge regardless of their background or life experiences.”

This wasn’t the final word this morning, though. Senator Jeff Sessions spent a good portion of his allotted half-hour for questioning focusing on the “wise Latina” comment and other remarks made in past speeches. First, he asked her “do you think there's any circumstance in which a judge should allow their prejudices to impact their decision-making?” She responded that judges have an obligation “to examine what they're feeling as they're adjudicating a case and to ensure that that's not influencing the outcome. Life experiences have to influence you. We're not robots to listen to evidence and don't have feelings. We have to recognize those feelings and put them aside.”

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Judge Sonia Sotomayor: Another Woman for the Supreme Court

Posted by Adrienne Ammerman, Communications Manager | Posted on: July 14, 2009 at 02:00 pm

by Adrienne Ammerman, Communications Manager, 
National Women's Law Center 

This post is part of a series about the nomination of Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

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The Sotomayor Hearings: When Did Empathy Become a Dirty Word?

by Neena Chaudhry, Senior Counsel,
National Women’s Law Center

This post is part of a series about the nomination of Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

As Senators made opening statements on the first day of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Sotomayor, several referenced the now controversial “e” word—empathy.  This word became a focal point when President Obama mentioned it as one of the many qualities he is looking for in a Supreme Court Justice, and it is now being misused in an attempt to paint Judge Sotomayor as someone who will not be impartial but rather will make decisions based on personal biases.  Unfortunately, the President’s statement and the definition of the word empathy have both been distorted in the name of politics.  It is reminiscent of the telephone game that many of us played as kids, where the initial sentence or phrase was warped after repeated whisperings of it from one person to another. 

Since we’re talking about a Supreme Court nomination, it seems fitting to start with the facts.  Here is what President Obama actually said: “I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity.  I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book.  It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation. . . . I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving a[t] just decisions and outcomes.  I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role.  I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded, and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.” 

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The Sotomayor Hearings: Day 2 Begins

Posted by Amy K. Matsui, Senior Counsel and Director of Women and the Courts | Posted on: July 14, 2009 at 12:57 pm

by Amy Matsui, Senior Counsel, 
National Women's Law Center 

This post is part of a series about the nomination of Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

Today's the moment court-watchers have been waiting for: Judge Sotomayor takes the oath and answers questions on many of the key legal issues of the day that are important to women, including: 

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The Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings: Day One

Posted by Jen Swedish, Health Law Fellow | Posted on: July 14, 2009 at 01:55 am

by Jen Swedish, Health Law Fellow, 
National Women’s Law Center 

This post is part of a series about the nomination of Judge Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.

Today, the first day of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings, we’ve seen a little bit of everything.  A few highlights:

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Weekly Round-Up

Posted by NWLC, Intern | Posted on: July 14, 2009 at 01:35 am

by Catherine Kruse, Outreach Intern,
National Women's Law Center

Serena Williams won a Grand Slam victory at Wimbledon, and AAUW’s Tom Rosen blogged about her win’s significance in context of Title IX’s recent 37th anniversary.

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More Than Just a Show: History, the Sotomayor Hearings and the Future

Posted by | Posted on: July 13, 2009 at 06:24 pm

by Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President, 
National Women’s Law Center 

Cross-posted from Huffington Post.

Sitting in the Senate hearing room this morning, I couldn't disagree more with those who dismiss the Sotomayor hearing as a show, with little meaning or purpose.

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