WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor has quit her membership in a women's club, the New York-based Belizean Grove.
"I believe that the Belizean Grove does not practice invidious discrimination and my membership did not violate the Judicial Code of Ethics, but I do not want questions about this to distract anyone from my qualifications and record," the 54-year-old New York federal appeals judge wrote.
The American Bar Association's judicial code says that a judge's extrajudicial activities "must not be conducted in connection or affiliation with an organization that practices invidious discrimination."
It adds, "An organization is generally said to discriminate invidiously if it arbitrarily excludes from membership on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or sexual orientation persons who would otherwise be eligible for admission."
According to the group's Web site, "The Belizean Grove is a constellation of influential women who are key decision makers in the profit, nonprofit 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."
A woman who answered the phone at the club, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said no one was immediately available to comment.
Sotomayor announced her decision to withdraw from the club effective Friday, in a letter to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, the committee's ranking member.
Her confirmation hearings begin July 13.
Sotomayor met Tuesday with six senators, courtesy visits with the lawmakers who will decide whether she will become the nation's 111th justice.
She has provided thousands of pages of material to the committee, but some Republican senators had asked for more information, including about her participation in the club.
About 115 women are in the group, according to its Web site. Its leaders said it was created as a counterpart to the all-male social club the Bohemian Grove, which also has an influential network of leaders.
Sotomayor told senators her group is not purposely exclusive. "To the best of my knowledge, a man has never asked to be considered for membership. It is also my understanding that all interested individuals are duly considered by the membership committee," she wrote in her letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
She added that men participate in the group's activities, including trips, hosting events and talks.
Sources indicated Sotomayor was recommended to the Belizean Grove by Mari Carmen Aponte, a corporate director and former top official at the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington.
The only female member of the high court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, belongs to the International Women's Forum, which has an exclusive membership.
Former justice Sandra Day O'Connor also participated in similar women-only groups, an issue that was raised during her 1981 confirmation hearings.
Among the Belizean Grove's members are Marion Blakely, former chairwoman of the Federal Aviation Administration; and Edie Weiner, leading futurist consultant and best-selling author. (CNN, 6.19.2009) http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/19/sotomayor.womens.club/?iref=mpstoryview