Tom Goldstein Reviews Sotomayor’s Decisions

Ken AshfordRace, Supreme CourtLeave a Comment

Over at SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein notes all proverbial ink being spilled over Sotomayor's race, along with the implicit and explicit statements that her supposed bias will prevent her from judicating equally and fairly.

So he decided to do something novel:

It seems to me that there is an infinitely simpler and more accurate way of figuring out whether Judge Sotomayor decides cases involving race fairly and dispassionately – read her decisions

Gee, what a concept.

He notes that she has heard over 100 cases dealing with race, covering everything from employment discrimination to bias in jury selection.

After reviewing 50 cases, he offers this interim report:

In those 50 cases, the panel accepted the claim of race discrimination only three times.  In all three cases, the panel was unanimous; in all three, it included a Republican appointee.  In roughly 45, the claim was rejected.  (Two were procedural dispositions.)

On the other hand, she twice was on panels reversing district court decisions agreeing with race-related claims – i.e., reversing a finding of impermissible race-based decisions.  Both were criminal cases involving jury selection.

In the 50 cases, the panel was unanimous in every one.  There was a Republican appointee in 38, and these panels were all obviously unanimous as well.  Thus, in the roughly 45 panel opinions rejecting claims of discrimination, Judge Sotomayor never dissented.

It seems to me that these numbers decisive disprove the claim that she decides cases with any sort of racial bias.

Goldstein will update his findings, with numbers, when he is finished.