Sotomayor, Race & Abortion: The Judicial Record

By Caitlin Taylor

Jun 1, 2009 8:52am

Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog finished up his review of all 96 race-related cases Judge Sonia Sotomayor decided on the Court of Appeals. His conclusion: Sotomayor rejected discrimination-related claims by a margin of approximately 8 to 1.


The numbers are as follows: in the 96 cases, Sotomayor and the panel rejected the claim of racial discrimination roughly 78 times. She and the panel agreed with the claim of discrimination 10 times, nine times it was unanimous. (For seven of those nine times, a Republican-appointed judge was on the panel.)


“In the one divided panel opinion, the dissent’s point dealt only with the technical question of whether the criminal defendant in that case had forfeited his challenge to the jury selection in his case.” 


The remaining 8 cases involved other kinds of claims or dispositions.


Goldstein also takes a look at her abortion-related rulings. Because the 2nd circuit court doesn’t hear a lot of these cases, there are no relevant panel opinions or district judge decisions.


“Almost all of Judge Sotomayor’s abortion-related rulings involve asylum claims arising from forced abortion or sterilization, most from China.  Applying settled precedent, she has routinely affirmed rulings in which such claims have been denied administratively…Her most notable opinion in this field is her dissent from the en banc Second Circuit’s holding that a spouse’s forced abortion or sterilization cannot support a claim of persecution.”


Sotomayor twice wrote opinions reinstating a civil rights suit alleging that police used excessive force in removing anti-abortion protesters.” In another instance “she supported the government’s right to prosecute abortion protesters for criminal contempt.” In another case, “she wrote an opinion holding settled precedent precluded a challenge to the ‘Mexico City policy’ (since withdrawn by President Obama) prohibiting the distribution of federal foreign aid funds to organizations that perform or promote abortion as a method of family planning.”


- jpt

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