Sotomayor's Questionnaire Delivered to Senate

The White House delivered Judge Sonia Sotomayor's questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday as her nomination to the Supreme Court continued to trigger a larger debate about gender and the judicial process.

And as committee members parse through the 173-pages of documentation, controversy swirls surrounding past comments made by the federal appellate judge relating to gender and ethnicity.

Sotomayor is already under fire for 2001 remarks made during a diversity lecture at the University of California at Berkeley, when she said, "I would hope that a wise Latino 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."

VIDEO: The new Supreme Court nominee sets off a debate about gender.
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Sotomayor's Senate questionnaire reveals she made that point more than once.

In a 1994 speech on women in the judiciary, she said she hoped "a wise woman with the richness of her experience would, more often than not, reach a better conclusion."

These newly revealed comments appear as part of a recurring theme in Sotomayor's speech-giving history and only fuel the debate on whether gender matters in how judges make decisions.

Sandra Day O'Connor, the court's first woman justice, didn't believe it did.

"I can't see, on the issues that we address at the court, that a wise old woman is going to decide a case differently than a wise old man," O'Connor said.

But Sotomayor has specifically said she doesn't agree with O'Connor and that women, because of their experiences, are better.

"Better," Sotomayor said in that same 1994 speech, "will mean a more compassionate and caring conclusion."

On the court, O'Connor did ask how cases would affect women. In the 1996 argument of Maryland v. Wilson O'Connor challenged a lawyer who argued that police should be able to detain passengers on the roadway while they searched the driver's car.

"Suppose it's a driving snowstorm, or a blinding rainstorm, and the passenger is a mother with a very young baby," O'Connor said inside the courtroom.

Sotomayor's Life Experiences and the Supreme Court

Life experience, says ABC News contributor Sam Donaldson, is something you can't help but bring with you to the bench.

"She will bring her life experience just as Justice Scalia brought his and Justice Ginsburg and Justice Marshall once brought theirs," Donaldson said on "Good Morning America" today.

Continuing, Donaldson explained, "It's not that one judge is dumb and the other's smart, one can actually read the English version of the Constitution and one can't; it's you bring different perspectives and lenses because of who you are."

Though conservatives have taken Sotomayor's comments as something of a rallying cry, ABC News' Cokie Roberts points to other rulings that were likely influenced in part by Sotomayor's upbringing and lean her more to the right.

"One of the interesting things about Judge Sotomayor is because she grew up in the projects, she's been much tougher on crime than a lot of Democrats have been in the past, and that might be an interesting life experience as she goes through the confirmation process as well," Roberts said.

Beyond that, the kind of diversity Sotomayor would bring to the court is "essential," Roberts added.

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