CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. July 15, 2009: Even as some began questioning whether Republican senators questioning of Sonia Sotomayor`s `wise Latina` comment could further alienate the Hispanic bloc from the party, Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, insists there is nothing biased in the hearings.
`It is not anti-Hispanic, it is not anti-Sotomayor,` he told CBS News yesterday, after addressing the NAACP.
`I don`t think the country is best served by having an activist jurist on the bench who in the president`s words is empathetic to the person standing in front of him, blind to the fact that the law or the Constitution says this is the appropriate outcome,` added Steele, echoing many of the sentiments expressed by Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
For their part Tuesday, Republican senators tried hard to rattle Sotomayor, of Puerto Rican ancestry, whom they seemed bent on portraying as a hot headed Latina, who would be an activist on behalf of her people and their issues from the bench of the Supreme Court.
But Sotomayor maintained a cool temperament, despite being needled by Alabama Senator, Jeff Sessions, known in the past for making what many perceived as racist remarks.
On Tuesday, Sessions zoned in on Sotomayor`s `wise Latina` comment, asking the judge again if she thinks `there`s any circumstance in which a judge should allow their prejudices to impact their decision-making?`
Sotomayor coolly responded, `Never their prejudices. I was talking about the very important goal of the justice system is to ensure that the personal biases and prejudices of a judge do not influence the outcome of a case.`
Unsatisfied, Sessions asks again about the inconsistency between those statements and her more recent statements trumpeting judicial impartiality. Then, a third time: `Let me just follow up that you say in your statement that you want to do what you can to increase the faith and the impartiality of our system, but isn`t it true this statement suggests that you accept that there may be sympathies, prejudices and opinions that legitimately can influence a judge`s decision? And how can that further faith in the impartiality of the system?`
Sotomayor again responded, `I think the system is strengthened when judges don`t assume they`re impartial, but when judges r: test themselves to identify when their emotions are driving a result, or their experience are driving a result and the law is not.`
He then pressed again, `I just am very concerned that what you`re saying today is quite inconsistent with your statement that you willingly accept that your sympathies, opinions and prejudices may influence your decision-making.`
To which Judge Sotomayor responds artfully, `Aren`t you saying there that you expect your background and — and heritage to influence your decision-making?.`
After an eight pressing of the same point, Sotomayor attempts to explain away the `wise Latina` comment, stating, `(It) was bad, because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that`s clearly not what I do as a judge. It`s clearly not what I intended in the context of my broader speech, which was attempting to inspire young Hispanic, Latino students and lawyers to believe that their life experiences added value to the process.`
Sotomayor is set to be the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court if confirmed, a base the Republicans lost dramatically in the last election.