Audio of Sotomayor at Ricci Hearing
4:47 PM, May 31, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
We don't have a very good understanding of Judge Sotomayor's reasoning in the Ricci v. DeStefano racial preferences case because she and her two colleagues issued a one-paragraph "per curiam opinion [that] adopted in toto the reasoning of the District Court, without further elaboration or substantive comment, and thereby converted a lengthy, unpublished district court opinion, grappling with significant constitutional and statutory claims of first impression, into the law of this Circuit," as the Second Circuit's Judge Cabranes, a Clinton appointee, wrote in his dissent from the court's 7-6 denial of en banc rehearing in the case.
Thankfully, the Wall Street Journal has posted an audio recording of an hour-long hearing from the Ricci case that sheds a little more light on Sotomayor's grappling (or lack thereof) with the serious claims brought up in this case. The Journal reports that Sotomayor and "the presiding judge, Rosemary Pooler, fire questions at the firefighters' lawyer, Karen Lee Torre." I think the following excerpt, in particular, is worth reading (though it's much more powerful listening Torre make her argument).
Judge Pooler asks (I assume Pooler is speaking because she is the only other judge identified by the Journal at the hearing) why the case of Hayden v. County of Nassau "isn't dispositive" in the Ricci case. Torre replies that in Hayden, "Nobody had lost anything. Nobody had taken the test yet. ... No one was hurt".
Judge Pooler interrupts and says that the district court judge said "no one was hurt here [in New Haven] either." Torre, flabbergasted, replies:
So much for empathetic appeals.
Torre then argues that New Haven's decision to throw out an exam that tested vital knowledge for firefighters endangers lives, especially in a "post-9/11 era, no less":
Oops. It looks like Torre just made an argument that was probably a little too classist for Judge Sotomayor's tastes. Nevertheless Torre continues to drive home the point that a mastery of the knowledge required to pass the test in New Haven could have saved lives: