Sotomayor Changes Tune on "Wise Latina" Comment

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made the rounds on Capitol Hill today, meeting with Senators of both parties. According to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT), Sotomayor addressed her controversial “wise Latina” remarks from 2001 during their meeting. Leahy would not say whether the nominee acknowledged that she misspoke when she made the comments, but her attempt to explain them only adds more confusion.

Here is what Sotomayor said in a prepared speech to a University of California Berkeley audience:

“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.”

Last week, the White House said that Sotomayor chose her words poorly when making the speech, adding that the judge was, “making the point that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judging.” President Obama endorsed that line, saying that the controversy over the remarks was “nonsense.” Still, the nominee spouted a completely different explanation in her meetings with Senators today.

“Sotomayor told Leahy that what she meant is that people have different backgrounds but ‘there is only one law,’ and ‘ultimately and completely’ she would follow the law.

Leahy didn’t clarify whether Sotomayor acknowledged misspeaking, as even President Barack Obama has. Leahy said Sotomayor talked about her judicial philosophy, which can be guided by experiences but at the end of the day it comes down to rule of law.” [emphasis added]

To clarify, Sotomayor now says that when she said life experiences matter to the process of judging, she was really saying that life experiences don’t matter to the process of judging.

The “ultimately and completely” formulation came up again in a meeting with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, in what is clearly a White House supplied line to try and put the “nonsense” controversy behind the nominee. But rather than clear things up, Sotomayor’s and the Administration’s denial of the clear meaning of her words only creates more questions about what she meant when she made the speech.