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Sotomayor: That ‘Wise Latina’ Remark Was ‘A Bad Idea’

Under intense grilling from Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) this afternoon, Judge Sonia Sotomayor was forced to confront directly her words in various speeches to minority law students over the past two decades in which she said that gender and ethnicity can affect how a judge views a case, and may in some situations affect the outcome.

Sotomayor attempted to align her comment about how a “wise Latina” would in some circumstances reach “a better decision” than a white male judge with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s earlier statements that “a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases.”“I don’t think that anyone would think we intended to say that we would make wiser decisions,” said Sotomayor today, after Kyl read portions of her 2001 speech at Berkeley back to her. “I intended to talk about the value that life experiences had,” she said. “The words I chose, taking the rhetorical fluourish, was a bad idea. I do understand that there are some who have read this differently, and I understand why they are concerned. But I have repeated, more than once, and if you look at my history on the bench I do not believe that any gender or race group has an advantage in sound judging. And I also believe that every person regardless of their background can be good and wise judges.”

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