- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Politically, the Supreme Court’s narrow decision Monday to overturn a ruling endorsed by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will likely provide useful debate fodder for Republican lawmakers and opponents of her nomination, but is unlikely to derail her confirmation as the first Hispanic woman to the bench.

Much of the pre-confirmation legal debate over Judge Sotomayor has focused on the case, which involved a decision by the city of New Haven, Conn., to throw out the results of a test for city firefighters after virtually no minority candidates qualified for promotions.

Judge Sotomayor’s opponents have failed to deal critical blows to the nomination by citing her remark about a “wise Latina woman” making better decisions than a “white male” and her rulings on hot-button social issues such as gun control.

Republican senators said Monday that they plan to focus on the Supreme Court ruling during her confirmation hearings, a Senate Republican aide said Monday.

“The Supreme Court found that Judge Sotomayor was wrong to allow the city to change its promotion exam after it was given, solely to favor a group because of race,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democratic senators said that despite the Supreme Court rebuke, Judge Sotomayor followed a model of judicial prudence by relying on previous court rulings to decide the case.

“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,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said Monday. “Judge Sotomayor and the lower court panel did what judges are supposed to do — they followed precedent.”

Democrats say they remain determined to proceed with the planned July 13 opening of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings

The high court reversed the decision by Judge Sotomayor and two other appellate judges to side with the city of New Haven, which argued that accepting the test results would have left it open to a discrimination suit from the rejected minority firefighters.

Republican lawmakers in the past week have turned their attention to Judge Sotomayor’s work with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF).

PRLDEF lawyers are sorting through 300 boxes of documents from Judge Sotomayor’s time there before delivering the requested information to senators.

Barring new revelations, Judge Sotomayor is expected to sail through the confirmation process in a Senate dominated by supportive Democrats and a handful of moderate Republicans. But Republican leaders say they still have hopes of at least slowing down her confirmation.

Senate Democrats have pushed for a speedy approval, overriding Republican efforts to delay the hearings.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said another order the high court issued Monday — calling for a rehearing on Sept. 9 of whether a film critical of then-presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton should be regulated as political advertising — is one more reason to confirm Judge Sotomayor well before the court begins its new term in October.

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

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