Last Friday White House press secretary Robert Gibbs tried to defuse the controversy over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” comment claiming: “I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor, that she was simply making the point that personal experience are relevant for the process of the judging.” President Barack Obama himself later said: “I’m sure she would have restated it.”
But new documents now reveal that, far from a poor word choice, Sotomayor’s “women make better judges” claim was a common refrain in her stump speech. In the 2001 speech that first caused waves, Sotomayor said:
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences … our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. … I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.
In a 1994 speech Sotomayor said:
Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that “a wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion in dueling cases. … I am not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, if Prof. Martha Minnow is correct, there can never be a universal definition of ‘wise.’ Second, I would hope that a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion.