U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor faced tough questioning from
Republican senators Tuesday, over whether she would allow her ethnic
background or personal views to influence decisions she would make if
she is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice.
During Tuesday's confirmation hearing in Washington Sotomayor addressed a controversial comment she made in 2001, that a wise "Latina" might make better decisions than a white man without the same life experiences.
She told senators her remarks were addressed to women, and minorities in a bid to inspire them in their future legal careers.
The nominee said in her 17 years as a federal judge, she has never allowed her personal views to influence a case, saying she has followed the law in every situation.
Sotomayor was also questioned about a ruling she made as part of a three-judge panel, against 20 mostly white firefighters. The firefighters said they were the victims of reverse discrimination on a promotion exam, because too few minorities did well on the test, so the test results were thrown out.
The Supreme Court recently overturned that ruling. Sotomayor said the case was not about quotas or affirmative action, and that she and her two judicial colleagues based their ruling on precedent set by other courts.
Sotomayor also cited precedent while addressing the issue of abortion rights. She said she accepted as "settled" the current U.S. law permitting abortion, based on the Supreme Court's 1973 decision known as Roe versus Wade. Sotomayor said she believes the Constitution provides a right to privacy, which was the legal basis for the ruling in the case.
Sotomayor also said she accepts a Supreme Court ruling last year affirming an individual's right to own guns as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Sotomayor, the child of Puerto Rican parents, went from a humble upbringing in New York public housing to graduate at the top of her class at two prestigious American universities -- Princeton and Yale. If she is approved by the Senate, the 55-year-old Sotomayor will become the third woman to sit on the Supreme Court.
Justices confirmed to the Supreme Court serve for life.