Last week, I criticized the coverage of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court as remarkably lazy. Indeed, rather than undertaking a comprehensive review of Sotomayor’s seventeen years worth of judicial opinions, the media and blogosphere have focused on the easy — not to mention obvious — issue of race, with some going as far as labeling her an outright “racist” on account of her “32 words.”
But over at SCOTUS Blog, Tom Goldstein provides complete data from the 96 race-related cases aside from Ricci on which Sotomayor has decided during her long judicial career:
Of the 96 cases, Judge Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of discrimination roughly 78 times and agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times; the remaining 8 involved other kinds of claims or dispositions. Of the 10 cases favoring claims of discrimination, 9 were unanimous. (Many, by the way, were procedural victories rather than judgments that discrimination had occurred.) Of those 9, in 7, the unanimous panel included at least one Republican-appointed judge. In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent’s point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case. So Judge Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of roughly 8 to 1.
Goldstein also observes that in one case, Pappas v. Giuliani (2002), Sotomayor dissented from the majority’s holding that the NYPD could fire a white employee for distributing racist materials. I find the media’s insistence that Ricci — and not Pappas — is representative of Sotomayor’s judicial work deeply troubling. It only confirms my suspicion that the media has decided to make Sotomayor’s nomination about her supposed “empathy” for minorities — regardless of the skepticism that she has otherwise demonstrated towards discrimination claims the vast majority of the time.