The Ricci Ruling and the Sotomayor Nomination

In anticipation of a ruling by the Supreme Court in Ricci v. DeStefano today or Monday, People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker issued the following statement:

Opponents of Judge Sotomayor have gone to great lengths to use the ruling of her panel in Ricci v. DeStefano against her, and they will surely ramp up their efforts if the Supreme Court overturns the Second Circuit. But the simple fact is that the Supreme Court's ruling, whatever it may be, will not reflect upon Sotomayor's jurisprudence.

Sotomayor and her panel colleagues were bound by longstanding precedent and federal law. They applied the law without regard to their personal views and unanimously affirmed the district court ruling. To do anything but would have been judicial activism.

The full Second Circuit backed up the panel, which came as no surprise. Nearly ten years earlier a Second Circuit panel — consisting of three GOP nominees — reached the same conclusion in a similar case (Hayden v. County of Nassau).

When a case virtually identical to Ricci came before the Sixth Circuit — Oakley v. Memphis — a panel rejected the plaintiffs' claims and affirmed the district court ruling. Notably, they did so in an unpublished summary order, and one of the three judges was conservative Bush nominee Richard Allen Griffin.

In other words, Sotomayor is anything but an outlier. She and the seven other federal judges who decided Ricci and Oakley at the district and circuit levels were unanimous in determining that precedent and federal law required the rejection of the suits.

We will soon learn whether the Roberts Court will upend decades of settled law in Ricci and undermine crucial civil rights protections under Title VII. But it is the height of hypocrisy and opportunism for Sotomayor's so-called "strict constructionist" opponents to attack her over Ricci.

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