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Sessions Grills Sotomayor on Firefighters’ Reverse Discrimination Case

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) just grilled Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on her ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano, the controversial case in which Sotomayor, as part of a three-judge panel, denied the firefighters’ claims that they had a right to promotions because they scored better on a written exam than did black firefighters.

Sessions repeatedly tried to suggest that Sotomayor had contradicted her promise during her earlier confirmation hearing to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the law, including Supreme Court rulings barring racial quotas, by ruling against the firefighters. But Sotomayor patiently explained that neither quotas nor affirmative action were at issue in the Ricci case. Rather, “the question was what’s a city to do when there’s proof that its test disparately impacts a particular group?” The Supreme Court created a new standard to reach its decision — one that was not even argued to the Second Circuit, she said.

Sessions did not let up, however. “Ricci raised important questions we have got to talk about as a nation,” said Sessions, noting that Judge Jose Cabranes — “also a Hispanic judge on the court”, said Sessions — voted to rehear the case.”You could have agreed with him, but you didn’t,” he said.

And so it went. What’s clear from this morning’s exchange is that just as Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sotomayor’s other Democratic supporters will toss her softballs to support her nomination, Sessions and his Republican colleagues who oppose this nominee are prepared to give her a very hard time.

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