The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in a New Haven firefighter reverse-discrimination case is a big deal in itself, said the Chicago Tribune in an editorial, but its “legal import” has “taken a back seat” to commentary on what the case, Ricci v. DeStefano, reveals about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, whose appeals court ruling it overturned. It doesn’t reveal much. If Sotomayor was wrong, “she was in good company”—two lower courts and four justices.
Sotomayor was wrong, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, both about the merits of the case and in her three-judge panel’s curt dismissal of the white firefighters’ discrimination claims—all nine justices agreed about her “mishandling” of the case. After her infamous “wise Latina” comment, Sotomayor’s “dismissive treatment” of the white plaintiffs “reinforces concerns that she is prone to race-conscious jurisprudence.”
Not really, said Linda Greenhouse in The New York Times. Sotomayor and her colleagues relied on “settled precedent” on job discrimination; the five-justice majority in Ricci created a new precedent with their ruling Monday. In other words, Sotomayor “played by the old rules, and the court changed them.” That’s not judicial activism on her part.
The “bottom line,” said Jonathan Adler in The Volokh Conspiracy, is that Ricci “reinforces the argument that Sotomayor is a mainstream liberal nominee”—in line with the four liberal Supreme Court justices, including David Souter, who she’s tapped to replace. Even if her handling of the case “reflects poorly on her judgment,” it is “(almost) inconceivable” that she won’t be confirmed.