Sonia Sotomayor

By Raymond Hernandez and David W. Chen

In the 1980s, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (which recently changed its name to LatinoJustice PRLDEF) sued the New York City Police Department, claiming that its promotion exams discriminated against Latinos and African-Americans.
The fund, one of the advocacy groups pressing similar cases across the country, also helped redraw voting districts in the city that increased the number of Hispanic elected officials. The defense fund even sued a former Reagan administration official for defamation after he claimed that virtually all Puerto Ricans in New York received food stamps.

Sonia Sotomayor was a young lawyer freshly out of Yale and joined its board in 1980. She left in 1992 when she was appointed a federal judge.

Its efforts helped bring bilingual education to public schools around the country.

Pardon me if I sound like a cave man here, but I don’t know that USA is a bilingual nation. What this world has come to now?

Two decades later, as a federal appellate judge, Ms. Sotomayor was again forced by a volatile case to confront the issue of promotion tests and race. She and her colleagues on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit were asked to review a ruling on a claim by white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., that they had lost promotions because of their race — even though they had performed well on the Fire Department’s tests.

Judge Sotomayor voted to affirm the lower court’s dismissal of the case, and her ruling is behind some of the most intense debate about her selection. Mr. Levey said that the employment discrimination case filed by the defense fund on behalf of Hispanic police officers raised questions about Judge Sotomayor’s credibility in the New Haven case. “It adds to the conviction that this was not accidental, and that she had a very specific agenda here.”

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