WASHINGTON, June 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor visited Capitol Hill Tuesday, meeting and greeting senators who will give her confirmation an aye or nay.
Sotomayor, 54, paid courtesy calls on Senate leaders of both parties, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and senators from her home state of New York. If confirmed as the successor to retiring Justice David Souter, she would be the first Latina and third woman on the nation's highest court.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, said Sotomayor "makes me think of Justice Souter, somebody with a great legal mind, impeccable credentials."
Leahy told reporters that he asked Sotomayor what she meant in 2001 when she said, "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." The remark has become a rallying cry among conservative commentators against her nomination.
"What she said was of course one's life experience shapes who you are, but ultimately and completely, and she used those words, ultimately and completely, as a judge you follow the law," Leahy said.
The committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, said he and Sotomayor "talked about her views on the law and other matters that I think ... relate to how a judge conducts himself on the bench."
He said he committed to the nominee "that she will get a fair hearing in the Judiciary Committee; she'll be treated respectfully and will be given an opportunity to respond" to criticisms about her remarks and rulings.
Leahy and Sessions said they and Senate leaders would meet to review a schedule for hearings on Sotomayor's confirmation. Leahy has said he wants the hearings before the August recess, but Sessions has indicated September may be soon enough.
"I don't think its irresponsible to wait until September," Sessions said. "There are over 3,000 to 4,000 cases now that are part of her 17-year record that need to be examined. I don't think we need to rush this."