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Former Clerk: Sotomayor's A "Legal Purist"

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A former law clerk for newly announced Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor defended her old boss against criticism that she's judicially biased, calling her a "legal purist."

Julia Tarver Mason, who spent a year clerking for Sotomayor when she was a federal judge, told CBS' The Early Show Wednesday that Sotomayor "is not someone who is going to try to reach a particular result in a particular case. She calls them straight down the middle, just like she sees them."

Republicans have voiced early criticism of President Barack Obama's selection to replace Justice David Souter, with some questioning whether she lets personal feelings and politics overshadow the law in her decisions.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call Sotomayor a "reverse racist" for her decision ruling against mainly white firefighters who had filed a reverse discrimination suit against New Haven, Conn.

"That's an absurd notion," Mason said "Judge Sotomayor is one of the most egalitarian people I have ever met. She treats people equally, no matter their background or ethnicity. I think the … fact that people from the right are throwing these outrageous allegations right now is just an indication that they don't know much about her record."

Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez also asked Mason about a speech Sotomayor made at the University of California at Berkeley in 2001, during which she said "I would hope 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."

Mason defended the comments, saying they referred to diversity on the court. "Diversity of life experience and perspective is very important and few of us would argue with that.

"I think what she was trying to convey in that comment was that we all bring our life experiences with us, but when she decides a case, she decides it based on the law, as that's appropriate."

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