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Ginsburg’s Hints About Ricci Case Renew Calls to Delay Sotomayor Confirmation Hearing

Addressing the annual conference of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit on Friday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made clear she was pleased with President Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter, Tony Mauro at Legal Times reports. (Watch her on C-Span here.)

She also tossed in this tidbit of information sure to interest anyone following the contentious Sotomayor nomination: The controversial reverse discrimination case Sotomayor participated in as an appellate court judge, Ricci v. DeStefano, may not be decided in June, as had been widely expected. Instead, the case, “one can safely predict, will be among the last to come out before the term ends,” said Ginsburg.

To be sure, that doesn’t tell us much. Although the term officially ends in late September, the court has been expected to issue its decisions by the end of June, before the court takes off for its summer recess, because Souter made clear he’s not staying past the end of this term. A new justice needs to be confirmed, move to Washington and hire new law clerks to be prepared to begin hearing cases in early October.

Some Republicans, however, have argued that they need more time to review Sotomayor’s voluminous record of court decisions — though many Democrats speculate that they really just want to wait for the court to decide the Ricci case, in the hopes of a reversal that they’ll then use against her.

The characteristically careful wording of Ginsburg’s statement hasn’t stopped the speculation that something nefarious is going on, though. Already, Sotomayor opponents are seizing on Ginsburg’s comment to resume the argument to delay Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings until September. They’re currently scheduled to begin July 13.

As William Jacobson, at Legal Insurrection, writes:

I have suspected that one of the reasons the Obama administration wants to rush the confirmation hearings through in mid-July is to avoid the serious political damage to Sotomayor’s confirmation of a reversal on . Ginsburg’s statements seem to support this wisdom, from the Obama administration’s point of view, since the decision appears to be headed for release after mid-July. [added] Normally the Court would render its decisions by the end of June, which makes it curious that Ginsburg would emphasize that the Ricci decision would be one of the last decisions released. We’ll see in the next couple of weeks whether the Ricci decision takes place on the normal timetable.

Ginsburg’s statements should give everyone pause as to the timing of the confirmation hearings. The possibility of a reversal on being held back (whether intentionally or not) until after the confirmation hearings argues for a September confirmation schedule.

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