CNN Supreme Court Senior Producer
Quite a bit of talk today about ‘”empathy” and whether that is a desirable quality in a judge/justice. Is there a pattern in Sotomayor’s rulings that would signal such sympathies? Here are samples from my research…
Cases where "empathy" or lack of it could be cited by opponents:
2000 – Ruled partly in favor of Yvette Cruz, Hispanic woman who alleged a co-worker at Coach Stores made lewd remarks and subjected her to sexual harassment. Upheld the harassment claims, but Sotomayor rejected the woman's claims she was fired because of her ethnicity.
2001 – She sided with a federal prisoner who sued a contractor running the facility because guards allegedly made him climb stairs, despite knowing he had a heart condition. He later had a heart attack. The man was in a halfway house for securities fraud. Sotomayor concluded, under her reading of a 1971 Scotus precedent, contractors could be sued the same as federal employees. Scotus later reversed.
2005 – Judge allowed a class action suit by Merrill Lynch shareholders who alleged fraud by company officials. Scotus in 2006 unanimously overturned, concluding federal law gave enforcement power to SEC, leaving no venue for lawsuits under state fraud laws.
On the other hand:
In King v. American Airlines in 2002, she ruled against a black couple who claimed they were kicked off their flight because of their race. Sotomayor said the case was pre-empted by international law governing air travel.
Ruled against Wendy Norville a black nurse in 1999 who claimed workplace discrimination after being fired. The worker said her age, race and a debilitating injury were the result. Sotomayor threw out the race and age claims, but allowed the claim on disability to proceed to trial.
In 2006 she ruled against investors who claimed Wall Street Banks were price-fixing IPOs. She agreed with the majority the class-action could not proceed, nullifying earlier settlements that would have benefited investors to the tune of $1 billion.
Bottom line: I found no obvious pattern in her rulings suggesting that she is consistently or overly sympathetic to “the little” guy, or any particular gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Her off-the-bench speeches/remarks reveal personal thoughts that some might find objectionable, but her rulings do not reveal an overt bias.
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