WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor resigned yesterday from an elite all-women's club after Republicans questioned her participation in it.
Sotomayor said she resigned from the Belizean Grove to prevent the issue from becoming a distraction in her confirmation hearings.
In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D., Vt.) and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Sotomayor said she was convinced that the club did not practice "invidious discrimination" and that her membership in it did not violate judicial ethics.
But the federal appeals court judge said she did not want questions about it to "distract anyone from my qualifications and record."
Federal judges are bound by a code that says they should not join any organization that discriminates by race, sex, religion, or nationality.
The Belizean Grove bills itself as women's answer to the 130-year-old all-male Bohemian Club in California, to which Chief Justice Earl Warren belonged beginning in the 1940s, before he joined the court and long before the federal judiciary adopted a code of conduct.
The Belizean Grove says on its Web site that it "is 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." It says it has about 115 members.
Earlier this week, Sotomayor defended her participation, telling senators that the group involved men in some of its events and that she was unaware of any man who had tried to become a member.