Sotomayor to Leahy: The Law Trumps Life Experience

ABC News' Dean Norland reports:

Following last week’s efforts by President Obama and his aides to walk back Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor’s controversial 2001 comments about a Latina judge perhaps coming to better conclusions than a white male jurist, Judge Sotomayor’s trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday allowed her to do some of the clean-up work herself.

In a press conference following his meeting with the nominee, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said he asked Sotomayor about those comments.

Sen. Leahy said of her response: "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."

As far as timing of the confirmation hearings, Sen. Leahy ruled out any hearings in June. But he said he would be motivated to go sooner rather than later because of the "vicious attacks by leading Republicans" who have made false and outrageous charges against the nominee.

"There is only one place she can answer those charges would be in a hearing. I want her to have a chance to answer those charges," he said.

Sen. Leahy made it clear that none of the attacks he was referring to came from Republican members of the Senate.

Regarding his overall impression of his meeting with Judge Sotomayor, whose career he has followed over the years, Sen. Leahy said, “She makes me think of Justice Souter, somebody with a great legal mind, impeccable credentials.”

ABC News' David Chalian contributed to this report.

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