Policy and Government

Sotomayor's Major Cases


Federal Appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor, nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court on May 26 by President Barack Obama, has bipartisan credentials. She was placed on the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush and elevated to the appellate division by President Bill Clinton. The 4-4 conservative-liberal split on the court does not hold in business cases. In business cases, Sotomayor, 54, has earned a centrist reputation, in line with the similar record of retiring Justice David Souter.

Here is a look at some of the key decisions issued by Sotomayor during her judicial career:

Case: NLRB v. Major League Baseball (1995)

Ruling: Sotomayor ruled that Major League Baseball team owners could not unilaterally discard the two-decade-old system of free agency and arbitration for players. The decision was delivered just 15 minutes after hearing arguments.

Result: At the time, court-watchers noted that Sotomayor showed she would not wilt under pressure from powerful circles.

Case: Dabit v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith (2005)

Ruling: In a Second Circuit majority opinion, Sotomayor found that a 1998 federal securities-litigation reform law didn't preempt a state-court case against Merrill Lynch over alleged manipulation of stock prices, because the plaintiffs held the shares rather than buying or selling them as the federal statute specified.

Result: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of preemption in 2006, but the case underscores Sotomayor's tendency to interpret statutes literally.

Case: In Re. IPO (2006)

Ruling: Sotomayor voted not to allow class-action investors to sue to recover fees they said they wrongly paid to banks in initial public offerings. The plaintiffs said investment banks manipulated the price of IPOs, and the three-judge appellate court decision was hailed by Wall Street.

Result: Illustrates Sotomayor's record of ruling both ways in class-action suits.

Case: Riverkeeper v. EPA (2007)

Ruling: Held that Clean Water Act required using the "best technology available" to prevent industrial water intakes from harming plants and animals, without balancing costs and benefits, because the statute didn't call for that analysis.

Result: Supreme Court reversed 6-3, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing that the statute's silence simply let the Environmental Protection Agency decide when to apply a cost-benefit analysis.

LeVine is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau. Francis is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau.

LeVine is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau.
Francis is a correspondent in BusinessWeek's Washington bureau.

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