Sonia Sotomayor

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-A senior adviser to President Barack Obama said Sunday that criticism of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor's comments are being used as a distraction from her 17-year judicial record.

In an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" program, White House adviser David Axelrod said Sotomayor's "wise Latina" comment in a 2001 speech at the University of California is being used by some Republicans to draw from the appeals court judge's accomplishments.

"I think this is kind of a sideshow," Axelrod said. "The point she was making is that we're all the sum total of our experiences and you bring those experiences with you to the bench."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, among others, have labeled Sotomayor, who is of Puerto Rican descent, a racist over the remark.

Obama nominated Sotomayor, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to replace Associate Justice David Souter, who is retiring from the high court at the end of the term this summer.

Axelrod said Sotomayor's record shows she will be an even-handed jurist.

"The fact is that there is nothing in her record that reflects anything but fairness and fidelity to the law and I think that's what we want in a U.S. Supreme Court justice," he said.

On the possibility of a Republican filibuster of Sotomayor's nomination, Axelrod said it would be a "shame" for the GOP to block her from a seat on the nation's highest court.

"They ought to confirm her," Axelrod said.

Sotomayor was nominated in 1991 by Republican President George H. W. Bush to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In 1997, Democratic President Bill Clinton nominated her to the appeals court post she now holds.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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