Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Racial Quotas

Even the New York Times seems worried that Sotomayor might be vulnerable on the racial quota issue.

she has described her academic struggles as a new student at Princeton from a Roman Catholic school in the Bronx — one of about 20 Hispanics on a campus with more than 2,000 students.

She spent summers reading children’s classics she had missed in a Spanish-speaking home and “re-teaching” herself to write “proper English” by reading elementary grammar books. Only with the outside help of a professor who served as her mentor did she catch up academically, ultimately graduating at the top of her class.

She become the outspoken leader of a Puerto Rican students group, Acción Puertoricaño, leading other Hispanics to file a complaint against Princeton with the federal government to force the hiring of Hispanic faculty members and administrators. “She was very passionate about affirmative action for women and minorities,” said Charles Hey, another Puerto Rican student.

At Yale Law School, she was co-chairman of a group for Latin, Asian and Native American students — a catchall group for nonblack minorities. There she led fellow students in meetings with the dean to push for the hiring of more Hispanic faculty members at the law school. And, friends say, she shared the alarm of others in the group when the Supreme Court prohibited the use of quotas in university admissions in its 1978 decision Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

As a lawyer, she joined the National Council of La Raza and the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, two Hispanic civil rights groups that advocate for vigorous affirmative action. As a judge, she has repeatedly argued for diversity on the bench by alluding to the insights she gleaned from her Latina background.

In one of the few cases dealing with the subject that she helped decide on the federal appeals court, Ricci v. New Haven, she ruled in favor of the city’s ’s decision to discard the results of an exam to select firefighters for promotion because too few minority firefighters scored high enough to advance. White firefighters who had scored well on the discarded test sued, and the Supreme Court heard arguments on the case in April. . . . .

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