Sen. Cornyn’s Daily Question for Judge Sotomayor

Explanation:     One of the puzzles of Judge Sotomayor's record is her participation in the Second Circuit panel that decided Ricci v. DeStefano, the New Haven firefighters case.    This case involves firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut who took a test for a promotion to Lieutenant or Captain.   The testing was rigorous, but the government did not get the results it wanted.  The mayor and fire commissioners of New Haven felt that not enough African-Americans had passed the test.  So they threw out the test and refused to promote anybody.  Ricci and 19 other firefighters sued in an effort to bring back the test results.   They argued that the city couldn't throw out the results just because of the race of the people who happened to score well on the test.

In my view, the Ricci case raises very serious questions that deserve thorough and careful treatment.   And the Supreme Court seems to agree with me: The Supreme Court agreed to review the Ricci case, and it has still not handed down the decision even thought the Supreme Court's term is almost over.   The fact that the Supreme Court hasn't released the Ricci opinion this late in the Supreme Court's term suggests that the Supreme Court sees the issues raised by the case as difficult ones.  

When Judge Sotomayor heard the Ricci case, however, she joined a short, unsigned, and unpublished opinion that dismissed the firefighters' claims.  That kind of opinion is usually reserved for easy and routine cases that do not deserve particularly careful treatment.  Judge Sotomayor's conduct in the Ricci case raises the question of whether she saw the issues in that case as easy ones - and if so, why.    I hope Judge Sotomayor can explain to the Senate and to the American people why she believed it was proper to resolve the Ricci case with a short, unpublished, and unsigned opinion rejecting the firefighters' claims.

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee's Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.