The chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has slammed Republican attacks of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, spoke on Capitol Hill Tuesday, as Sotomayor met with Leahy and other key senators in advance of her confirmation hearings.

Leahy said leading Republicans have called her the equivalent of a bigot.  He called the charges against her totally false and outrageous.

Leahy will conduct her upcoming hearings as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee's ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions, also met with Sotomayor Tuesday.  He promised she will get a fair hearing and that the issues surrounding her nomination will be addressed then.

Republicans have criticized remarks Sotomayor made in 2001 suggesting that her life experience as a Latina woman would enable her "more often than not" to reach a better conclusion in a court case than a white male jurist.  Some prominent Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, have said her comments show her to be racist and sexist.

Sotomayor, a federal appeals court judge, also met Tuesday with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who lauded her accomplishments and said there could not be a better qualified person.  She also is meeting Tuesday with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Sotomayor, who would be the first Hispanic and third woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, has been busy answering a 10-page questionnaire sent to her by the Judiciary Committee, intended to provide details on her life, career and public statements. 

President Barack Obama contends Sotomayor's critics are trying to portray a distorted view of her record.  He says the United States needs judges who can empathize with the concerns and struggles of everyday people.

Senator Sessions told reporters Sunday that while everyone should have empathy, a judge is required to be neutral, only ruling on the law and the facts.

The 54-year-old judge would replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring next month after 19 years on the Supreme Court.  Mr. Obama is calling for the Senate to confirm Sotomayor before Congress takes its August recess.