Judge Sonia Sotomayor has an addition to the lengthy list of familiar phrases used in the Supreme Court confirmation process: "ultimately and completely."
Two senators who met today with Sotomayor said the Court nominee had used those words to describe her own commitment to "follow the law" when deciding a case. Some Republicans have criticized Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit and a former federal trial judge, for comments that they say call into question her impartiality.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sotomayor brought up the phrase when they were discussing the impact a judge's life experiences have on rulings from the bench.
"Normally, as you know, I don't talk about what a nominee says to me," Leahy told reporters after meeting with Sotomayor for about 30 minutes. "I asked her if she had any problem with me referring to her answers. She said, 'None whatsoever.'
"What she said was, 'Of course one's life experience shapes who you are, but ultimately and completely' — she used those words — 'ultimately and completely, as a judge, you follow the law,'" Leahy said. "There's not one law for one race or another. There's not one law for one color or another. There's not one law for rich; a different one for poor. There's only one law."
Over the next few minutes, Leahy repeated the phrase three times for reporters.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Sotomayor used the phrase with him, too.
"Yes, she used those words," he said in response to a reporter's question. "Of course, the question is: What is the law? How does a judge find the law? And what approach to statutory construction do they utilize?"
Sessions said they didn't talk in depth about those questions. "She discussed that forthrightly, I thought in an effective way, but it was really not a detailed discussion of her comments or speeches," he said.