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The Nominee's Jurisprudence

Conservatives try to paint Sonia Sotomayor as a liberal activist. But her record in cases in which the court was divided reveals more complexity.
Conservatives try to paint Sonia Sotomayor as a liberal activist. But her record in cases in which the court was divided reveals more complexity. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

CASE Hayden v. Pataki, 2006

ISSUE: Whether a New York law that bars felons from voting, combined with historic discrimination in the criminal justice system, violates the Voting Rights Act.

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SOTOMAYOR POSITION: A lower court dismissed a lawsuit filed by black and Hispanic prisoners who wanted to vote from jail and felons on parole, a dismissal upheld by the full 2nd Circuit. Sotomayor dissented, saying the voting law covers felon disenfranchisement.

KEY SOTOMAYOR QUOTE: "It is plain to anyone reading the Voting Rights Act that it applies to all 'voting qualifications.' . . . Section 2 of the Act by its unambiguous terms subjects felony disenfranchisement and all other voting qualifications to its coverage."

CASEHankins v. Lyght, 2006

ISSUE: Whether a church's mandatory retirement policy violated anti-discrimination law.

SOTOMAYOR POSITION: A minister forced to retire at 70 sued his church for age discrimination. A federal judge dismissed the suit, but a 2nd Circuit panel reinstated it. Sotomayor dissented, arguing that the lawsuit should be thrown out and accusing her Republican colleagues of judicial activism.

KEY SOTOMAYOR QUOTE: "The majority's opinion thus violates a cardinal principle of judicial restraint."

CASE Pappas v. Giuliani, 2002

ISSUE: Whether a New York City police officer's firing violated his First Amendment free-speech rights.

SOTOMAYOR POSITION: The officer had mailed out fliers that ridiculed black and Jewish people. His lawsuit was dismissed by a lower court, a dismissal upheld by a 2nd Circuit panel, which ruled that the city could terminate him because he disseminated bigoted diatribes. Sotomayor dissented and said the officer's rights had been violated.

KEY SOTOMAYOR QUOTE: "I find the speech in this case patently offensive, hateful, and insulting. The Court should not, however, gloss over three decades of jurisprudence and the centrality of First Amendment freedoms in our lives because it is confronted with speech it does not like."


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