Page last updated at 21:16 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 22:16 UK

Senate ends Sotomayor questioning

Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor has so far avoided being drawn on major issues

US President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, has finished her last day of testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee's confirmation hearings take place ahead of a full senate vote to approve Ms Sotomayor's nomination, which is expected in early August.

Other witnesses, including Frank Ricci, whose discrimination case Ms Sotomayor struck down, have also been questioned.

Ms Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice.


During the questioning this week, Ms Sotomayor vigorously defended her impartiality as a judge.

She was asked repeatedly to explain her comment 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".

On Thursday, she apologised to any senators on the panel who had been insulted by the comment, which she made in a number of earlier speeches.

"I regret that I have offended some of you," she said. "I believe my life demonstrates that that was not my intent."

The senators, however hard they tried, were not able to lay a glove on her
The BBC's Kevin Connolly

She has been careful in responses to questions about any major issue that could come before her as a justice, such as abortion and gun law.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Washington says a precedent has emerged in recent decades whereby Supreme Court nominees are allowed to avoid engaging with any questioning at their confirmation hearings that touches on the hot-button issues in American politics.

At Thursday's hearing, a variety of witnesses were called in addition to Ms Sotomayor, including Frank Ricci, a white fire-fighter from New Haven, Connecticut.

His case has figured prominently in discussion about Ms Sotomayor's suitability to serve as a Supreme Court justice.

Mr Ricci was among a group of fire-fighters who took a promotion exam, only to see the results dismissed by city authorities after no African-Americans and only two Hispanics did well enough to win promotion.

Ms Sotomayor and fellow appeals court judges ruled that Mr Ricci and his colleagues had not been unfairly denied promotions, a ruling subsequently overruled by the Supreme Court.

The ruling "divides people who don't wish to be divided along racial lines", Mr Ricci said in his testimony before the Judiciary Committee.

The Democrats have enough votes to block any Republican attempts to stop Ms Sotomayor's confirmation.

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