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Sotomayor No “Reverse Racist” - Former NY Colleague

June 2, 2009

New York, NY – The head of an Hispanic civil rights group on whose board Sonia Sotomayor sat for 12 years is defending the Supreme Court nominee from what he says are unexpected and "vicious" attacks.

Before joining the federal bench, Sotomayor was a board member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is now known as LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Cesar Perales, the group's president and general counsel, says developments since she was nominated have been a surprise.

"We have suddenly, frankly, been thrust into the spotlight in a way we have not expected. We did not expect that if she were nominated that she would come under such vicious attack."

Some opponents have pounced on remarks Sotomayor made about judges in a 2001 speech, which they say suggests she is a "reverse racist." Perales says that charge is "silly."

"She unfortunately used words to suggest that a Hispanic woman, because of the richness of her experiences, would be better than a white male. I don't think that was what she really meant."

Perales says Sotomayor has spent all of her life with peoples of all races and backgrounds, and no one in the world, he says, has ever called her a "reverse racist."

Other opponents say Sotomayor's 12 years as a leader of a Hispanic civil rights group which brought many discrimination claims will slant her decisions on the bench. Perales labels that charge "absolutely ridiculous."

"Her advocacy on behalf of the civil rights of people is not something that in any way can be held against her. It is in the highest tradition of American jurisprudence. When you have a judge who has served 17 years on the federal bench, who's got a record that can be examined, and to somehow suggest that at this point, she is no longer going to be able to be a good judge, that now she is going to allow her ethnicity, her experiences, to totally dominate her thinking and not allow her to make solid judgments. She's a top-flight judge and has been for 17 years and the record shows that."

Perales says he thinks Sotomayor's chances of being confirmed are very good.

"If the best that the enemies of the progressive thinkers in this country can do is to suggest that she somehow is a racist – if that's the best they can come up with, it's not going to be much of a confirmation hearing - it's going to go very, very smoothly."

Sotomayor, President Obama's choice to replace outgoing Justice David Souter, would be the first Hispanic justice on the court.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY