Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who Is Judge Sonia Sotomayor??

USSupremeSeal SCOTUS Blog has a wonderful summary of Judge Sotomayor's civil cases, many of her employment discrimination decisions. Since joining the 2d Circuit in 1998, she authored over 150 opinions. With respect to her record on civil rights, SCOTUS Blog states:

During her years on the Second Circuit, Sotomayor has decided cases involving race, sex, age and disability discrimination.  In these cases, she has often - but not always - sided with the plaintiffs.

Sotomayor’s dissent in Gant v. Wallingford Board of Education, 195 F.3d 134 (2d Cir. 1999), is perhaps her most strongly worded opinion addressing discrimination.  Plaintiff Ray Gant, who was transferred mid-year from first grade to kindergarten because of academic difficulties, alleged that the school was deliberately indifferent to racial hostility that he suffered and discriminated against him through the transfer.  Sotomayor agreed with the majority’s decision to dismiss the racial harassment claim, but she rejected their conclusion that the transfer was not race discrimination.  In her view, the transfer was “unprecedented and contrary to the school’s established policies”:  white students having academic difficulties, she noted, received compensatory help, whereas Gant - the “lone black child” in his class - was not given an “equal chance” but was instead demoted to kindergarten just nine days after arriving at the school.

However, in Norville v. Staten Island University Hospital, 196 F.3d 89 (2d Cir. 1999), Sotomayor wrote an opinion that dismissed claims brought by a disabled black woman, who alleged that her employer did not give her the same accommodations for her disabilities that it provided to white employees, on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to prove that she was similarly situated to the white employees. 

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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Judge Sonia Sotomayor is an obviously serious candidate to serve on the Supreme Court. Last year, I directed a project in which a team of Akin Gump summer associates extensively reviewed Judge Sotomayor’s opinions. Amy Howe subsequently revised and expanded their work, with contributions by me.

Posted by: Toronto Personal Injury | May 27, 2009 2:08:24 AM

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