The first item that has been circulating about Judge Sotomayor is a statement she made about appellate courts making “policy” during a panel discussion at Duke University in 2005 (note: this clip is lengthier, and provides much more context, than the clips played on most news sites):
4/1/09: The US Supreme Court ruled that “pre-dispute arbitration agreements” in collective bargaining agreements (union contracts) are enforceable, in Penn Plaza PLLC v. Pyett, 129 S. Ct. 1456 (2009) (5–4 decision).
3/10/09: In the West Virginia Legislature, HB 3032, introduced on March 10, 2009, would give employees the right to review their personnel files. The legislation has not been passed, and in prior legislative sessions, essentially the same bill was introduced without having been passed.
Many people have the incorrect understanding that, in West Virginia, an employer is legally required to allow an employee to review the employee’s personnel file. There is currently no such legal requirement, but the pending HB 3032 will change that if it is passed.
Appointments to these federal judicial positions require the confirmation by the US Senate. The Democrats control at this time 58 votes in the Senate, through 56 Democrats and 2 Independents (Joe Lieberman, CT; Bernie Sanders VT) who caucus with the Democrats. If Al Franken eventually is declared the winner in Minnesota, which is expected, the democrats will have 59 votes. President Obama only needs 51 votes to confirm one of his judicial nominations. If the Republicans chose to filibuster any of President Obama’s nominations, the Democrats need 60 votes for cloture to cut off the filibuster and force a vote (cloture requires a three-fifths vote of the voting Senators). If the Democrats will be starting with 59 votes, they will likely frequently be able to “peel off” a Republican or two to break the filibuster.
Federal court of appeals nominations are usually made from lawyers with significant prior judicial experience. So the pool of lawyers to be considered will likely by the current federal district judges, and, less likely, current state court judges.
Given Presidential history since 1980, the substantial majority of federal judges are appointees of Republican Presidents (20 years of Republican presidency versus 8 years of Democrat presidency).
Of the current 11 judges on the Fourth Circuit, 6 were Republican appointees and 5 were Democratic appointees (although Judge Gregory was a “hybrid” having originally been appointed by President Clinton and then re-appointed by President George W. Bush). You can view a chart on Wikipedia that sets out the lineup of current judges and the Presidents who appointed them
Assuming President Obama fills all 4 current vacancies, then we will have a realignment on the Fourth Circuit to: 9 Democrat appointees, and 6 Republican appointees.
Ms. Crawford Responds to an Investigation into Sexual Harassment
Here is what happened: Rumors started circulating about sexually inappropriate behavior by a male supervisor, Gene Hughes, at “Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County” (“Metro”). A human resources employee started investigating, and asked Vicky Crawford whether she had seen any inappropriate behavior by Mr. Hughes. Crawford responded yes, and described several instances of sexually inappropriate behavior. For example, Ms. Crawford had asked Mr. Hughes “what’s up”, and he responded by grabbing his crotch and saying “you know what’s up”. On another occasion, Mr. Hughes grabbed Ms. Crawford’s head and pulled it toward his crotch. The human resources employee talked to two other employees who similarly reported sexually harassing behavior from Mr. Hughes.
The Gap in the Federal Employee Section of the ADEA
This was the problem under the ADEA: The ADEA’s main section, in prohibiting discrimination against employees 40 and older, only deals with private industry employees and state government employees. I will call this section of the ADEA, the “private and state employee sections”.
The employer (Sprint) contended that evidence of other alleged age discrimination victims was not admissible where the decision-makers for those other victims were different from the decision-makers who took action against the plaintiff.
The Supreme Court rejected the employer’s argument and said that the evidence of other victims might be admissible, even if different decision-makers were involved. The trial court should conduct a “balancing test” for admissibility of discrimination against other employees by different supervisors, where the relevance of the other employees’ situation is balanced against unfair prejudice to the employer.
The plaintiff was a pilot, Rao Zahid Khan, who alleged that his co-workers subjected him to frequent derogatory and insulting comments about his national origin and religion (he was Arabic). The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Colgan Air (a) was not liable for harassment because it had policies and procedures prohibiting harassment and took swift and decisive action after learning about the harassment, and (b) was not liable for retaliation because Colgan Air terminated the employee (Mr. Khan) for a legitimate and non-discriminatory reason–he failed to pass a mandatory FAA proficiency test for pilots.