The Sotomayor Case File

Here are summaries of seven cases ruled on by Judge Sotomayor that were reviewed by the Supreme Court. Four were reversed, two were upheld and one is still pending.  

Ricci v. DeStefano
— Supreme Court decision pending  

In February 2008, a three-judge panel that included Sotomayor upheld a lower-court decision that supported the decision of the City of New Haven, Conn., to toss out the results of an exam that was to determine promotions at the city’s fire department. The city’s action came after only one Hispanic and no black firefighters qualified for a promotion. White firefighters who passed the test sued the city, saying their rights were violated when the test results were thrown out and no promotions were made. The Supreme Court agreed to review the case and heard oral arguments in April 2009.  

Riverkeeper, Inc. vs. EPA — Supreme Court reversed 6-3

Sotomayor, writing for a three-judge panel, ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency could not conduct a cost-benefit analysis in implementing a “best technology available” rule for limiting the environmental impact of power plants on fish and other aquatic organisms. Sotomayor wrote that the “best technology” standard prevented the EPA from considering the cost of implementing the technology against the environmental benefit. The Supreme Court reversed Sotomayor’s ruling in a 6-to-3 decision, saying that Sotomayor’s interpretation of the “best technology” rule was too narrow.  

Knight vs. Commissioner — Supreme Court upheld 8-0

In 2006, Sotomayor upheld a lower tax court ruling that certain types of fees paid by a trust are only partly tax deductible. The Supreme Court upheld Sotomayor’s decision, but unanimously rejected the reasoning she adopted, saying that her approach “flies in the face of the statutory language.”  

Dabit vs. Merrill Lynch — Supreme Court reversed 8-0

In a 2005 ruling, Sotomayor overturned a lower court decision and allowed investors to bring fraud lawsuits against investment firms in state courts. The lower court had agreed with Merrill Lynch’s argument that the suits were invalid because of a 1998 law that required such suits be litigated in federal court. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the ruling, saying that it could lead to “wasteful, duplicative litigation“ and that overseeing security markets was in the federal interest.  

Empire Healthchoice Assurance, Inc. vs. McVeigh — Supreme Court upheld 5-4

In 2005, Sotomayor ruled against a health insurance company that sued a deceased federal employee’s estate that had received $157,000 in insurance benefits as the result of an injury. The health insurance company sued the worker’s widow, who had won $3.2 million in a separate lawsuit, for reimbursement of the benefits paid to her husband, saying the federal insurance plan required such benefits be reimbursed when the beneficiary is compensated for an injury by a third party.  

Malesko v. Correctional Services Corp. — Supreme Court reversed 5-4

In 2000, Sotomayor supported the right of an individual to sue a private corporation working for the federal government. Reversing a lower court decision, Sotomayor found that an existing law that 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 a federal halfway house facility where he lived.  

Tasini vs. New York Times, et al — Supreme Court reversed 7-2

As a district court judge in 1997, Sotomayor ruled against a group of freelance journalists who claimed that news organizations, including the New York Times, violated copyright laws by reproducing their work on electronic databases without first obtaining their permission. An appellate court reversed Sotomayor’s decision, siding with the freelancers, and the Supreme Court upheld the appellate decision, rejecting Sotomayor’s original ruling.