White House: "Little Political Significance" To Ricci Decision

07/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

The White House insisted on Monday that the political dynamics behind Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination had not changed with the Supreme Court's decision to reverse her earlier ruling on Ricci v. DeStefano.

"There is little political significance to whatever the court decided today in regard to Judge Sotomayor," said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked if the decision would make it tougher for Sotomayor to be confirmed by the Senate.

Earlier in the day the court held that the city of New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam for its firefighters because none of the individuals who passed were Black or Hispanic. The decision was a rebuke, of sorts, to Sotomayor, who -- citing earlier decisions by the Second District Court of Appeals -- argued that the city was within its rights to toss away the exam. But Gibbs said the White House was not troubled by the decision, arguing that, if anything, it showed her commitment to judicial precedence.

"I haven't talked to [the president] specifically about it," he said. "Though I think one thing that is clear is that the ruling by Judge Sotomayor was based on the precedent of the second circuit and the precedents that they considered. The Supreme Court clearly had a new interpretation for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Some of the very concerns that some of the members have expressed about judicial activism seem to be -- at the very least -- upside down in this case. Her ruling on the second circuit denotes that she is a follower of precedent."

The notion that Sotomayor, in this case, was the one upholding pre-existing law is something that her defenders pushed strongly after the Ricci decision was announced. And it prompted queries in the White House press corps as to whether Gibbs was accusing the Supreme Court of being activist in its decision to overturn Sotomayor and the Second District Court of Appeals' earlier decision.

Gibbs took the opportunity to press once more for Sotomayor to be seated before the new Supreme Court convened.

"I don't see that this is anything that would prevent her from a seat on the Supreme Court," he said. Noting that a case would now be decided on September 9, he added, "This underscores the importance of getting a new Supreme Court nominee."

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