Ms Sotomayor was born in the Bronx (June 25 1954) of Puerto Rican descent, graduated with an AB, summa cum laude, from Princeton in 1976, and received her JD from Yale Law in 1979, where she was an editor at the Yale Law Journal. She worked as an Assistant District Attorney in New York for a time before entering private practice in 1984. Ms Sotomayor was nominated to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George HW Bush in 1991 and was confirmed in 1992.
As is not uncommon at this judicial level, President Bush consulted with Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) as to nominees that they could both agree on, and Ms Sotomayor’s name came up through that process. During her tenure there, she ruled on two noteworthy cases. In 1995, she issued the preliminary injunction against Major League Baseball which ended the 1994 baseball strike, and in 1996 Ms Sotomayor issued a ruling allowing the Wall Street Journal to publish Vince Foster’s suicide note.
In 1997, she was nominated by President Bill Clinton to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, after more than a year, she was confirmed and joined the court in 1998. Ms Sotomayor was an Adjunct Professor at New York University School of Law from 1998 to 2007, and has been a lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School since 1999.
Ms Sotomayor has been a perennial mention for elevation to the Supreme Court since her elevation to the Federal Court of Appeals. If confirmed, she would be the Court’s first Hispanic and third woman (the first two being now-retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and current Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg).
Below are listed the cases upon which Ms Sotomayor ruled that found their way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Intellectual Property: Tasini v New York Times, et al, 972 F. Supp. 804 (1997)
As a district court judge in 1997, Ms Sotomayor heard a case brought by a group of freelance journalists who asserted that various news organizations, including the New York Times, violated copyright laws by reproducing the freelancers’ work on electronic databases and archives, such as Lexis/Nexis, without first obtaining their permission. Ms Sotomayor granted the publishers summary judgment, holding, inter alia, that the databases reproduced and distributed the authors’ works, in §201(c)’s words, “as part of … [a] revision of that collective work” to which the authors had first contributed.
The Second Circuit reversed, granting the authors summary judgment on the ground that the databases were not among the collective works covered by §201(c). New York Times, et al applied for a hearing before the US Supreme Court, and certiorari was granted. The case was argued on March 28 2001 and decided on June 25 2001. Justice Ginsburg, wrote the opinion of the Court, affirming the Second Circuit (i.e., upholding the reversal of Ms Sotomayor), in which Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Justices O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, and Thomas, joined. Justice Stevens wrote a dissent, in which Justice Breyer joined. Ms Sotomayor was reversed 7-2.
Civil Rights: Malesko v Correctional Services Corp, 299 F.3d 374 (2000)
Writing for the court (Second Circuit) in 2000, Ms Sotomayor supported the right of an individual to sue a private corporation working on behalf of the federal government for alleged violations of that individual’s constitutional rights. Reversing a lower court decision, Ms Sotomayor treated the complaint as raising claims under Bivens, which allows suits against individuals working for the federal government for constitutional rights violations, could be applied to the case of a former prisoner seeking to sue the private company operating the federal halfway house in which he suffered a heart attack he claims was due to policy implemented by the corporation.
Mr Malesko appealed to the Supreme Court and certiorari was granted, the case being argued on October 1 2001, and decided on November 27 2001. The Court reversed Sotomayor, saying that Bivens could not be expanded to cover private entities working on behalf of the federal government. Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justices O’Connor, Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas joined. Justice Scalia filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer joined. Ms Sotomayor was reversed 5-4.
Health Insurance: Empire Healthchoice Assurance Inc v McVeigh, 396 F.3d 136 (2005)
In 2005, Ms Sotomayor ruled against a health insurance company that sued the estate of a deceased federal employee who received $157,000 in insurance benefits as the result of an injury. The wife of the federal employee had won $3.2 million in a separate lawsuit from those whom she claimed caused her husband’s injuries. The health insurance company sued for reimbursement of the benefits paid to the federal employee, saying that a provision in the federal insurance plan requires paid benefits to be reimbursed when the beneficiary is compensated for an injury by a third party.
Empire appealed and certiorari was granted. The case was argued on April 25 2006 and decided on June 15 2006. In an opinion written by Justice Ginsburg, and joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Stevens, Scalia, and Thomas, the Court found that the Government’s important interests in attracting able workers and assuring their health and welfare do not warrant turning into a discrete and costly “federal case” an insurer’s contract-derived claim to be reimbursed from a federal worker’s state-court-initiated tort litigation. This case cannot be squeezed into the slim category Grable exemplifies. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kennedy, Souter, and Alito joined. Ms Sotomayor was upheld 5-4.
Finance: Dabit v Merrill Lynch, 395 F.3d 25 (2005)
In a 2005 ruling, Ms Sotomayor overturned a lower court decision and allowed investors to bring certain types of fraud lawsuits against investment firms in state court rather than in federal court. The lower court had agreed with the defendant Merrill Lynch’s argument that the suits were invalid because the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act of 1998 required that such suits be brought only in federal court.
Merrill Lynch appealed and certiorari was granted. The case was argued on January 18 2006 and decided on March 21 2006. The Court found that federal, not state, law has long been the principal vehicle for asserting class-action securities fraud claims. Dabit’s holder class action is distinguishable from a typical Rule 10b-5 class action only in that it is brought by holders rather than sellers or purchasers. That distinction is irrelevant. The plaintiffs’ identity does not determine whether the complaint alleges the requisite fraud, and the alleged misconduct here – fraudulent manipulation of stock prices – unquestionably qualifies as a fraud “in connection with the purchase or sale” of securities as the phrase is defined in SEC v Zandford. The Court vacated the Second Circuit and remanded the case to the lower court, which allowed a pathway to federal court. Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Justice Alito, who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Ms Sotomayor was reversed 8-0.
Taxes: Knight v Commissioner, 467 F.3d 149 (2006)
Under IRS Code, individuals may subtract from their taxable income certain itemized deductions, but only to the extent the deductions exceed 2% of adjusted gross income. A trust may also claim those deductions, also subject to the 2% floor, except that costs incurred in the administration of the trust, which would not have been incurred if the trust property were not held by a trust, may be deducted without regard to the floor.
Michael J Knight is the trustee of the William L Rudkin Testamentary Trust, a Connecticut Trust. In 2000, Mr Knight hired Warfield Associates Inc, to provide advice with respect to investing the Trust’s assets. On its fiduciary income tax return for 2000, the Trust reported total income of $624,816, and it deducted in full the investment advisory fees paid to Warfield. After conducting an audit, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue found that these investment advisory fees were miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor. The discrepancy resulted in a tax deficiency of $4,448.
The Trust appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, where Ms Sotomayor upheld the lower court. In determining whether costs such as investment advisory fees are fully deductible or subject to the 2% floor, “directs the inquiry toward the counterfactual condition of assets held individually instead of in trust,” and requires “an objective determination of whether the particular cost is one that is peculiar to trusts and one that individuals are incapable of incurring.” The court held that because investment advisory fees were “costs of a type that could be incurred if the property were held individually rather than in trust,” and therefore deduction of such fees by the Trust was subject to the 2% floor.
The Trust petitioned for, and was granted, certiorari. The case was argued November 27 2007 and decided on January 16 2008. The Court found that in applying the statute, the Court of Appeals asked whether the cost at issue could have been incurred by an individual. This approach flies in the face of the statutory language. The provision at issue asks whether the costs “would not have been incurred if the property were not held” in trust, not, as the Court of Appeals would have it, whether the costs “could not have been incurred” in such a case. “We can think of no expense that could be incurred exclusively by a trust but would nevertheless not be paid or incurred in connection with” its administration. In an unusual occurrence, the Court unanimously upheld Ms Sotomayor’s decision while unanimously rejected her logic. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the Court. Ms Sotomayor was unanimously upheld but the reasoning she adopted was unanimously rejected.
The Environment: Riverkeeper Inc v EPA, 475 F.3d 83 (2007)
Ms Sotomayor, writing for a three-judge panel, ruled that the EPA may not engage in a cost-benefit analysis in implementing a rule that the “best technology available” must be used to limit the environmental impact of power plants on nearby aquatic life. The case involved power plants that draw water from lakes and rivers for cooling purposes, killing various fish and aquatic organisms in the process. Ms Sotomayor ruled that the “best technology” regulation did not allow the EPA to weigh the cost of implementing the technology against the overall environmental benefit when issuing its rules.
Certiorari was granted, and the case was argued on December 2 2008 and decided on April 1 2009. The Court found the Second Circuit’s interpretation of the “best technology” rule was too narrow, and reversed 6-3. Justice Scalia wrote for the majority, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito concurred. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Justice Stevens filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Souter and Ginsburg, joined. Ms Sotomayor was reversed 6-3.
Affirmative Action: Ricci v DeStefano 530 F.3d 87 (2008)
That brings us to Ms Sotomayor’s latest ruling to reach the High Court, which is to be decided during the current session. Ms Sotomayor was part of a three-judge panel that ruled in February 2008 to uphold a lower court decision supporting the City of New Haven’s decision to throw out the results of a captain’s exam to determine promotions within the city’s fire department. Only one Hispanic and no Black firefighters qualified for promotion based on the exam; New Haven subsequently decided not to certify the results and issued no promotions. In June 2008, Second Circuit decided 7-6 to deny a rehearing of the case in banc (by the full 13-member court). The Supreme Court agreed to review the case and heard oral arguments in April 2009.
 Referring to the 1976 Copyright Act.
 A Bivens Action allows for damages in remedy for constitutional violations committed by federal agents. In Bivens v 6 unknown named federal agents, the Court found that a violation of a specific constitutional amendment by a federal employee was recognized as a cause of action for monetary damages.
 Grable involved real property belonging to Grable & Sons Metal Products Inc, which the IRS seized to satisfy a federal tax deficiency. Grable received notice of the seizure by certified mail before the IRS sold the property to Darue Engineering & Manufacturing. Five years later, Grable sued Darue in state court, asserting that Darue’s record title was invalid because the IRS had conveyed the seizure notice improperly.