Politico: Sonia Sotomayor found friends in elite group


Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor last year accepted an invitation the Belizean Grove, an elite but little-known women’s-only group.

Founded nearly 10 years ago as the female answer to the Bohemian Grove – a secretive all-male club whose members have included former U.S. presidents and top business leaders – the Belizean Grove has about 125 members, including Army generals, Wall Street executives and former ambassadors.

Sotomayor’s membership in the New York-based group became public Thursday afternoon in a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Since then, the group has been deluged with press calls, said its founder, Susan Stautberg, who explained that “we like to be under the radar screen.”

The group – which on its website describes itself as “a constellation of influential women who are key decision makers in the profit, non-profit and social sectors; who build long term mutually beneficial relationships in order to both take charge of their own destinies and help others to do the same” – hosts periodic meetings around New York, as well as an annual off-the-record three-day retreat in Central or South America at which its members attend cocktail parties with U.S. diplomats and host-country officials and participate in panel discussions on public-policy and business affairs.

At least year’s retreat in Lima, Peru, for instance, Sotomayor and the other members attended a reception at the American Embassy with U.S. Ambassador to Peru P. Michael McKinley and several female members of the Peruvian cabinet, Stautberg said.

Sotomayor, a federal appellate judge, gave a presentation on the challenges the judiciary faces in maintaining its independence from the legislative and executive branches.

“It was really about how you need to have that balance of power, and that the judiciary needed to have the ability to really be itself and not be influenced politically,” said Grove member Cathy Allen, the chief executive officer of a financial services firm in Santa Fe. Allen said she didn’t take notes on the speech, and added, “everything we do is off the record.”
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In a quote on the group’s website, Sotomayor called the Grove “an extraordinary grouping of talented, compassionate and passionate women. I am deeply honored to have been included. The joy of participating in your fun in Peru was wonderful.”

Mary Pearl, a dean and vice-president at New York’s Stony Brook University, called the talk “inspiring” and said she came away from it impressed by Sotomayor’s “profound respect for the Constitution and our legal framework in this country.”

The two became friends through the group, which, she said, is kind of the point of it.

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Comment by truth on June 17, 2009 at 1:07am
Sotomayor answers GOP as Senate braces for debate

Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 49 mins ago
WASHINGTON – Defending her membership in an elite all-women's club, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor told senators that the group doesn't discriminate unfairly by gender and includes men in many of its activities. Her explanation, in a letter submitted Monday evening to the Senate Judiciary Committee, was accompanied by copies of several rulings, briefs and speeches that the judge had not previously given to the panel.

GOP senators requested the material and questioned Sotomayor's membership in Belizean Grove, a group of prominent professional women, because federal judges are bound by a code that says they shouldn't join any organization that discriminates by race, sex, religion or nationality.

"I do not believe that my membership in the Belizean Grove violates the Code of Judicial Conduct," Sotomayor wrote. She told senators that the group involves men in some of its events and that she was unaware of any man who had tried to become a member.

Sotomayor's backers noted that the court's only current female justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, belongs to the membership-only International Women's Forum. So did former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who defended her involvement in all-women groups during her Senate confirmation hearings.

As Republicans delved into Sotomayor's background, a key GOP senator was planning a series of speeches that will criticize Obama and Democrats for the way they choose members of the federal judiciary, arguing that their approach threatens the court system and the rule of law.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the committee, will make a speech this week about what the founding fathers considered an ideal member of the Supreme Court. He planned to contrast that vision with what he sees as a push for federal judges and justices who seek to shade their rulings with their own political and personal views and change the meaning of the Constitution.

The planned speeches, which don't include any direct criticism of Sotomayor or her record, will set the stage for her confirmation hearings in mid-July that will almost certainly feature Republicans asking tough questions of the federal appeals court judge.

Sessions' push for a broader discussion about the federal judiciary emerged as Republicans struggle to figure out how to handle the politically charged debate over confirming the woman who would be the first Hispanic on the high court. GOP senators have neither the votes nor the appetite to try to block the judge, and seem loath to criticize her too strongly for fear they will be tied to prominent conservatives outside the Senate who have called her racist.

The risk is particularly acute for Sessions. He was rejected for a spot on the federal bench more than 20 years ago after allegations surfaced that he made racist remarks and targeted black civil rights leaders as a prosecutor. But he and other Republicans are also being pressed by conservative activists to use the debate over Obama's first Supreme Court nominee to persuade the public that Democrats are endangering the court system.

Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, told civil rights leaders and law students that Sotomayor's confirmation was a certainty.

"You better believe we're going to get her confirmed — take that one to the bank," Leahy said during a speech at the University of the District of Columbia law school.

He compared Sotomayor's nomination to that of Thurgood Marshall, the first black to sit on the court, saying they both faced adversity. He noted that Republicans questioned Marshall at his confirmation hearings about whether he would discriminate against white people — much as they have challenged Sotomayor for saying that she hoped that a "wise Latina" would usually reach a better conclusion than a white male without similar experiences.

Leahy also defended the belief that a judge should take into account the real-world impact of his or her decisions, saying the failures of the court's "conservative activists," including Chief Justice John Roberts, to do so recently resulted in the gutting of key anti-discrimination and civil rights laws.

Comment by TheLasersShadow on June 5, 2009 at 10:03am
How bout that ... a Lesbian Grove HAHAHAHAA man this lady is a ring knocking spit swapping demon from Latina hell, La Raza and a womans Grover. How much more anti-american can one woman get ... I bet its worse than we know i shouldn't even ask I don't want to know!!

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