- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2009

The Supreme Court’s ruling Monday in support of a group of white New Haven firefighters holds plenty of ammunition for both supporters and opponents of high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Conservative activists rushed Monday morning to define the decision as a repudiation of Judge Sotmayor, barely an hour-and-a-half after the Supreme Court opinion was handed down.

Judge Sotomayor’s liberal supporters followed immediately afterward with a denunciation of the conservative talking points and a call for her speedy confirmation to the bench.

The political arguments have not changed since Judge Sotomayor was nominated to the court by President Barack Obama a month ago, but today’s rulings reinvigorated both sides.

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High court rules for Conn. white firefighters

Lawyers on a call organized by the conservative Federalist Society said the justices roundly repudiated Judge Sotomayor’s legal reasoning and criticized her decision to side with two other appellate judges in refusing to hear a challenge to the city’s action.

“You really have unanimity among the justices that something really wrong was happening in the way this whole matter was handled by the city of New Haven,” said Roger Clegg, former counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

The court ruled in Ricci v. DeStefano that New Haven city officials violated the civil rights of a group of white firefighters when it threw out job test results after virtually none of the minority candidates qualified for promotions.

The case, which was decided by 5-4 majority, has lommed large in Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation battle, with Senate committee hearings set to start July 13. Judge Sotomayor agreed with two other members of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last year that the city was right to throw out the test results, based on precedents set by federal judges and the city’s fear it would be sued by minority candidates if it accepted the test results.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Judge Sotomayor and the other judges followed well-established precedents in deciding the case. He added that the high court’s decision Monday to re-hear arguments Sept. 9 in the case of a film critical of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provided one more reason to the Senate to move quickly to confirm her.

“The urgency for her confirmation has become greater,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said.

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