High Court Tosses Firefighter Decision Backed by Sotomayor

Posted June 29, 2009 at 10:38am

The Supreme Court on Monday threw out an affirmative action decision rendered by Judge Sonia Sotomayor and her colleagues on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a move that will certainly add to the partisan debate surrounding President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the circuit court’s ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano in which the lower court upheld the decision by the New Haven, Conn., fire department not to promote white firefighters out of concern that the promotion test had been biased.

Sotomayor did not write the majority ruling in that case, although she did side with the majority.

Supporters and detractors of Sotomayor spared no time in firing up their messaging machines following the decision.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) denounced the Supreme Court’s decision and made the case that it would be wrong to use the ruling against Sotomayor since she and her colleagues were following precedent when they ruled against the white firefighters.

“It would be wrong to use today’s decision to criticize Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who sat on the panel of the Second Circuit that heard this case but did not write its unanimous opinion. Judge Sotomayor and the lower court panel did what judges are supposed to do. They followed precedent,— Leahy said.

Conservatives, however, launched some of their most blistering attacks on Sotomayor to date. “What Judge Sotomayor did in Ricci was the equivalent of a pilot error resulting in a bad plane crash. And now the pilot is being offered to fly Air Force One,— said Wendy Long, counsel for the Judicial Confirmation Network.