Sotomayor and critical thinking

Charles Krauthammer:

Sonia Sotomayor has a classic American story. So does Frank Ricci.

Ricci is a New Haven firefighter stationed seven blocks from where Sotomayor went to law school (Yale). Raised in blue-collar Wallingford, Conn., Ricci struggled as a C and D student in public schools ill-prepared to address his serious learning disabilities. Nonetheless he persevered, becoming a junior firefighter and Connecticut's youngest certified EMT.

After studying fire science at a community college, he became a New Haven "truckie," the guy who puts up ladders and breaks holes in burning buildings. When his department announced exams for promotions, he spent $1,000 on books, quit his second job so he could study eight to 13 hours a day, and, because of his dyslexia, hired someone to read him the material.

He placed sixth on the lieutenant's exam, which qualified him for promotion. Except that the exams were thrown out by the city, and all promotions denied, because no blacks had scored high enough to be promoted.

Ricci (with 19 others) sued.

That's where these two American stories intersect. Sotomayor was a member of the three-member circuit court panel that upheld the dismissal of his case, thus denying Ricci his promotion.

This summary ruling deeply disturbed fellow members of Sotomayor's court, including Judge Jose Cabranes (a fellow Clinton appointee) who, writing for five others, criticized the unusual, initially unpublished, single-paragraph dismissal for ignoring the serious constitutional issues at stake.

...

Her dismissive attitude about Ricci should be a topic of discussion, but I think it unlikely she will join in that discussion. At any rate, the questions would have to be careful structured or she will avoid answering.

The Washington Times also raises questions about her belief that states can be ordered to allow felons to vote.

...

In Hayden v. Pataki, a number of inmates in New York state filed suit claiming that because blacks and Latinos make up a disproportionate share of the prison population, the state's refusal to allow them ballot access amounts to an unlawful, race-based denial of their right to vote. Eight of 13 judges on the liberal-leaning Second Circuit dismissed their arguments, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled likewise in a similar case.

Yet, operating on a dubious and extremely broad reading of the Voting Rights Act, Ms. Sotomayor dissented from the decision. In a remarkably dismissive, four-paragraph opinion, she alleged that the "plain terms" of the Voting Rights Act would allow such race-based claims to go forward.

...


Stuart Taylor also explains the issues in the Ricci case.

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