SOTOMAYOR: Thank you for giving me an opportunity to explain my remarks.
No words I have ever spoken for written have received so much attention.
SOTOMAYOR: I gave a variant of my speech to a variety of different groups, most often to groups of women lawyers or to groups, most particularly, of young Latino lawyers and students.
As my speech made clear in one of the quotes that you reference, I was trying to inspire them to believe that their life experiences would enrich the legal system, because different life experiences and backgrounds always do. I don't think that there is a quarrel with that in our society.
I was also trying to inspire them to believe that they could become anything they wanted to become, just as I had. The context of the words that I spoke have created a misunderstanding, and I want -- and misunderstanding -- and to give everyone assurances, I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial 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.
What -- the words that I use, I used agreeing with the sentiment that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was attempting to convey. I understood that sentiment to be what I just spoke about, which is that both men and women were equally capable of being wise and fair judges.
That has to be what she meant, because judges disagree about legal outcomes all of the time -- or I shouldn't say all of the time, at least in close cases they do. Justices on the Supreme Court come to different conclusions. It can't mean that one of them is unwise, despite the fact that some people think that.
So her literal words couldn't have meant what they said. She had to have meant that she was talking about the equal value of the capacity to be fair and impartial.
LEAHY: Well, and isn't that what -- you've been on the bench for 17 years. Have you set your goal to be fair and show integrity, based on the law?
SOTOMAYOR: I believe my 17-year record on the two courts would show that, in every case that I render, I first decide what the law requires under the facts before me, and that what I do is explain to litigants why the law requires a result. And whether their position is sympathetic or not, I explain why the result is commanded by law.
LEAHY: Well, and doesn't your oath of office actually require you to do that?
SOTOMAYOR: That is the fundamental job of a judge.
By David Neiwert — July 14, 2009