Sotomayor Values Identity Politics, Not Individual Rights

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Second Circuit federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by retiring Justice David Souter was a clear signal he values identity politics and personal agendas over sound jurisprudence and equal justice under the law.

While much of Sotomayor’s record show she is unfit for the Court, most troubling is her involvement in the Ricci v. DeStafano case, in which the New Haven, Conn. fire department decided it didn’t like the results of an officers promotion exam in which white and Hispanic firefighters outperformed black firefighters. 

The department threw out the results of the exam, denying several firefighters promotions solely because of their race.  The firefighters sued, claiming racial discrimination under Title VVI of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Cato Institute, Reason Foundation and the Individual Rights Foundation filed briefs on behalf of the firefighters, citing the absurdity of allowing public employers to throw out the results of valid, race-neutral exams that produce politically incorrect racial disparity.  The firefighters and the libertarian foundations filing briefs argued that public employment practices should be color-blind.

Sotomayor disagreed, ruling the city has a right to discriminate against white and Hispanic public employees to construct a politically correct racial mix in hiring, even if it goes against the results of a racially-neutral competency exam.

That troubles libertarians, who believe that while the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of association allows private parties to hire whomever they please, government has no right to discriminate.

Public employers should treat all citizens of all colors, races and ethnicities with equal respect and value.  Sotomayor’s radical rulings are a jarring departure from that principle.  The Supreme Court is no place for state-sanctioned racism, and Sotomayor’s nomination should be rejected.