OpenJurist

Opinions Involving Sonia Sotomayor

Tens of thousands of visitors have come to OpenJurist looking for cases related to United State Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Excerpted from SCOTUSBLOG, here are some of the most important of the more than 150 decisions she has authored:

  • Abortion Rights: In Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush, 304 F.3d 183 (2d Cir. 2002) she held the government “is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position” with public funds.

  • First Amendment - Speech: In Pappas v. Giuliani, 290 F.3d 143 (2d Cir. 2002) she concluded, the NYPD’s race relations concerns “are so removed from the effective functioning of the public employer that they cannot prevail over the free speech rights of the public employee.”
  • First Amendment - Political Association: In Kraham v. Lippman, 478 F.3d 502 (2d Cir. 2007) she wrote an opinion holding that a rule prohibiting high-ranking political party officials from receiving court fiduciary appointments (such as appointments as guardians ad litem) in New York state courts did not violate the plaintiff’s right to freedom of political association. She ultimately concluded that such an “incidental effect on individual decision-making, however, furthers the rational and legitimate goal of eliminating corrupt court appointments.”
  • First Amendment - Religion: In Ford v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 382 (2d Cir. 2003) she held that the inmate’s First Amendment’s rights were violated because the feast was subjectively important to the inmate’s practice of Islam.
  • First Amendment: In Duamutef v. Hollins, 297 F.3d 108 (2d Cir. 2002) she held an inmate’s First Amendment rights were not violated by prison officials’ monitoring of his mail - prompted by the inmate’s receipt of a book with the title “Blood in the Streets: Investment Profits in a World Gone Mad” - because the inmate had previously caused disturbances and the prison needed to forestall security problems.
  • Civil Rights - Discrimination: In Gant v. Wallingford Board of Education, 195 F.3d 134 (2d Cir. 1999) Ray Gant, was transferred mid-year from first grade to kindergarten because of academic difficulties, alleged that the school was deliberately indifferent to racial hostility that he suffered and discriminated against him through the transfer. Sotomayor rejected their conclusion that the transfer was not race discrimination. In her view, the transfer was “unprecedented and contrary to the school’s established policies”: white students having academic difficulties, she noted, received compensatory help, whereas Gant - the “lone black child” in his class - was not given an “equal chance” but was instead demoted to kindergarten just nine days after arriving at the school.
  • Civil Rights - Racial Discrimination: In Norville v. Staten Island University Hospital, 196 F.3d 89 (2d Cir. 1999) she wrote an opinion that dismissed claims brought by a disabled black woman, who alleged that her employer did not give her the same accommodations for her disabilities that it provided to white employees, on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to prove that she was similarly situated to the white employees.
  • Civil Rights - Racial & Gender Discrimination: In Williams v. R.H. Donnelly Co., 368 F.3d 123 (2004) she wrote an opinion holding that an employee alleging racial (as well as gender) discrimination had not proven she was the victim of discrimination when her employer declined to create a position for her when the employer had never created a position for any particular employee.
  • Civil Rights - Hostile Work Environment: In Cruz v. Coach Stores, 202 F.3d 560 (2d Cir. 2000) for the judicial panel, she cited the allegations of racial slurs by the plaintiff’s supervisor and sexual harassment, as well as the plaintiff’s assertion that she was fired “under the pretext of fighting in the workplace after she was physically beaten and sexually assaulted,” and the “physically threatening nature of [the supervisor’s] behavior, which repeatedly ended with him backing Cruz into the wall . . . brings this case over the line separating merely offensive or boorish conduct from actionable sexual harassment.” Moreover the opinion noted, “a jury could find that [the supervisor’s] racial harassment exacerbated the effect of his sexually threatening behavior and vice versa.”
  • Civil Rights - Hostile Work Environment: In Raniola v. Bratton, 243 F.3d 610 (2d Cir. 2001) she emphasized that during a two-and-a-half-year period, “Raniola was subjected to offensive sex-based remarks, disproportionately burdensome work assignments, workplace sabotage, and one serious public threat of physical harm.” And it rejected the district court’s “conclusion that ‘there is no evidence that plaintiff herself felt that the use of barnyard expletives directed to her or others made her work environment offensive.” Similarly, although all of the disciplinary actions at issue took place after Raniola transferred to another precinct, her former supervisor’s role “in prosecuting her charges, the timing of the prosecution, and the surrounding events all lend support to Raniola’s retaliation claim.”
  • Civil Rights - Age Discrimination: In Hankins v. Lyght, 441 F.3d 96 (2d Cir. 2006) Sotomayor complained that the majority had “violate[d] a cardinal principle of judicial restraint” when it - unnecessarily, in her view - held that the RFRA was constitutional. Moreover, she deemed the panel’s decision to remand the case to the district court for briefing on the RFRA issue “a wasteful expenditure of judicial resources and an unnecessary and uninvited burden on the parties.” Instead, she would have affirmed the district court’s dismissal and held that the ADEA does not apply to employment suits against religious institutions by their leaders.
  • Civil Rights - Disability Discrimination: In Parker v. Columbia Pictures, 204 F.3d 326 (2d Cir. 2000) she was the author of an opinion that followed decisions of other circuits applying Title VII’s “mixed motive” analysis to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), holding that the case should be remanded to the district court because the plaintiff satisfied the elements for a prima facie case of discrimination based on disability.
  • Civil Rights - Disability Discrimination: In EEOC v. J.B. Hunt Transportation, Inc., 321 F.3d 69 (2d Cir. 2003) she would have held that the plaintiff had made out a prima facie case of disability discrimination because the defendants rejected all applicants for long-haul truck driving who took certain medications.
  • Civil Rights - Disability Discrimination: In Nielson v. Colgate-Palmolive, 199 F.3d 642 (2d Cir. 1999) she argued that when “a party exhibits a limited ability to understand a proceeding affecting her rights, the court must undertake even more strenuous efforts to explain the process.”

Check out a search of our opinions for all opinions mentioning Sonia Sotomayor.