TV Show Inspired Sotomayor to the Bench, Newly Released Documents Show

She wanted to be like the prosecutor on Perry Mason.

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Federal records released online today, days before Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings to the Supreme Court, unveiled more details about her earlier nominations for two federal judge positions, including how she was set on the path to the bench by a popular television show.

The National Archives released more than 5,000 pages of White House documents related to the judge in response to a Freedom of Information Request by the New York Times and other news agencies about her previous nominations as a district court and appeals judge.

The largest sets of documents, totaling 5,032 pages, were launched online today by the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. Former President Bill Clinton nominated Sotomayor to the federal appeals court in New York in 1997.

The Clinton library documents include a personal data questionnaire, which highlights the judge's long judicial record and how she became a lawyer. Calling herself a "product of modern media," Sotomayor wrote in the questionnaire that the fictional prosecutor portrayed in the Perry Mason television program inspired her to become a lawyer at age 8. "Despite his repeated 'losses' to Perry Mason, the television prosecutor once explained that his job was always satisfying because he saw justice done both when a guilty person was convicted and an innocent person was exonerated," Sotomayor wrote. "I became a judge to do justice by applying the law in this evenhanded fashion."

Along with previous court opinions, news clippings, and letters in support of her nomination, the records also contain Sotomayor's responses to questions from Republican Sens. John Ashcroft and Strom Thurmond during the nomination process.

The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library also released documents today containing internal memos, biographical materials, and letters detailing her 1991 nomination for a position as a U.S. District Court judge in New York. The four new pages add to 58 pages previously released by the library.

Also, the National Archives Office of Records Services opened up access to 122 E-mails today. The E-mails were retrieved from the federal electronic files of the Clinton administration and contained Sotomayor's name either in the E-mail or in the attachment. The bulk of the E-mails include news clippings, talking points, and announcements from the administration.

All of the newly released records are available on the National Archives website.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to begin Sotomayor's confirmation hearings Monday.