Bench Memos

NYT Background on New Haven Firefighters Case—Part 2 of 2

A second recent New York Times article that provides an interesting backdrop to Judge Sotomayor’s role in Ricci v. DeStefano explores Sotomayor’s work as a member of the board of directors of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in the 1980s, including in PRLDEF’s successful suit forcing the New York City police department to institute racial quotas for the hiring and promotion of police officers.  Some excerpts:

In the 1980s, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund sued the New York City Police Department, claiming that its promotion exams discriminated against Latinos and African-Americans.…

[This and other] efforts were backed by the defense fund’s board of directors, an active and passionate group that included a young lawyer named Sonia Sotomayor….

The board monitored all litigation undertaken by the fund’s lawyers, and a number of those lawyers said Ms. Sotomayor was an involved and ardent supporter of their various legal efforts during her time with the group.…

One of the legal defense fund’s most important suits charged that a Police Department promotional exam discriminated against minority candidates. It was filed on behalf of the Hispanic Society of the New York police. The exams, the group charged, did not really measure the ability to perform in a more senior position, and were yielding unfair results: Too many whites were doing well, and too many Hispanics and African-Americans were not.…

The suit resulted in a settlement with the city that produced greater numbers of promotions to sergeant for Latino and African-American officers.

Some white officers, however, felt that the settlement was unfair. They said that many white officers had outscored their Hispanic and African-American counterparts, yet were not allowed to fill the spots because of quotas. They sued, and their case, Marino v. Ortiz, reached the Supreme Court, where it failed by a 4-to-4 vote in 1988.…