Opinion: Sotomayor hearings: A look at other controversial rulings

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Many people who have followed the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court have heard of the Ricci case — the one involving white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., who sued the city, alleging reverse discrimination. Sotomayor was part of an appellate panel that ruled in favor of the city; the Supreme Court overturned the panel, ruling for the firefighters.

But Ricci isn’t the only case of interest to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Consider Maloney vs. Cuomo.

In that case, involving a New York man who had been arrested for possessing an illegal gang weapon known as a chuka stick, Sotomayor joined a three-judge panel in 2009 that rejected his claim that the state law banning the weapon violated the 2nd Amendment and the “right to bear arms.” The panel cited Supreme Court rulings from the 19th century and said “it is settled law that the 2nd Amendment applies only to limitations the federal government seeks to impose.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) grilled Sotomayor earlier today about that one.

Here are snapshots of two more cases that might be raised as the hearings progress:

Pappas vs. Giuliani

In the case of a police officer who was fired for sending racist and anti-Jewish leaflets through the mail, Sotomayor dissented in 2002 and said the firing violated his freedom of speech. She agreed the mailings were “patently offensive, hateful and insulting,” but said the officer had sent them on his own time and anonymously so they would not reflect on the police department.

N.G. vs. Connecticut

In a case involving the routine strip search of adolescent girls at a state-run juvenile detention center, Sotomayor dissented in 2004 and said these searches should be declared unconstitutional. The girls were not accused of a crime or suspected of wrongdoing, she said, and such a “severely intrusive search” is unwarranted, embarrassing and humiliating. Her opinion was in line with a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting strip searches in public schools.

-- Steve Padilla

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