Sotomayor pushes back on racial bias charges

(AP) - Sonia Sotomayor pushed back vigorously Tuesday against Republican charges that she would bring bias and a liberal agenda to her seat as the first Hispanic woman on the Supreme Court, insisting repeatedly she would be impartial as GOP senators tried to undercut her with her own words from past speeches.
For all the pointed questioning in a grueling, daylong hearing,there was little doubt that President Barack Obama's first highcourt choice - with solid backing from the Democrats and theirlopsided Senate majority - would be confirmed. Sen. Patrick Leahy,Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said as much - andpredicted she would receive at least some Republican backing.
Sotomayor, 55, kept her composure - judge-like, supporters said- during the intense day of questions and answer, listeningintently and scribbling notes as senators peppered her withqueries, then leaning into her microphone and gesturing foremphasis as she responded. She returns for another full day ofquestioning on Wednesday.
"My record shows that at no point or time have I ever permittedmy personal views or sympathies to influence the outcome of acase," the appeals court judge declared during a tense exchangewith Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on thecommittee that is conducting this week's confirmation hearings. Herepeatedly questioned her ability to be objective as a SupremeCourt justice, citing her own comments.
Sotomayor backed away from perhaps the most damaging words thathad been brought up since Obama nominated her seven weeks ago - a2001 comment suggesting that a "wise Latina" judge would usuallyreach better conclusions than a white man. She called the remark"a rhetorical flourish that fell flat."
"It was bad because it left an impression that I believed thatlife experiences commanded a result in a case, but that's clearlynot what I do as a judge," Sotomayor said.