BusinessWeek: Sotomayor’s a ‘Moderate on Business Issues’

Business • Views: 11,712

BusinessWeek analyzes Sonia Sotomayor’s record, and concludes that she’s A Moderate on Business Issues.

Federal Appellate Judge Sonia Sotomayor, nominated May 26 by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Supreme Court, has earned a centrist reputation in business cases: In 1995, she sided with Major League Baseball players in a confrontation with owners over free agency and arbitration, but 11 years later she rejected a petition by millions of investors that alleged rigging of initial public offerings in the dot-com boom. …

RULINGS ON PUNITIVE DAMAGES
“Judge Sotomayor has a track record of moderation on issues of importance to the business community,” said Evan M. Tager, an appeals specialist at Mayer Brown in Washington, D.C.

One issue certain to be raised by conservative U.S. senators in the confirmation process is the issue of punitive damages in civil suits. Tager, whose firm examined the records of the handful of top candidates to succeed retiring Justice David Souter, says that on the bench Sotomayor has “expressed unease” about large punitive awards, yet has upheld large awards “when the ratio of punitive to compensatory damages is modest.” …

Such a position fits with the alignment of the court on business issues. In social and civil cases, the court has routinely split 4-4, on conservative-liberal lines, with one of the justices serving as a swing vote. But the lines have blurred significantly in business cases. “Based on her record, it is very likely that she will align herself with the more liberal side of the court” on social and civil cases, Dupree said. “[Yet] while no one would call Judge Sotomayor stridently pro-business, there are many business issues that cut across the traditional liberal and conservative ideological lines.”

In class actions, Sotomayor has occupied a strict middle ground, her record reflecting sympathy neither for those in favor of such issues, nor skepticism of them. “She looks at each case on its unique facts to determine whether a class action is appropriate,” said Tager.

CENTRIST ON PREEMPTION
Another hot-button issue is preemption, or the right of federal courts to step in to cases involving state law. Tager said on this issue, too, Sotomayor has been centrist. “She has been evenhanded in cases raising federal preemption as a defense, finding preemption about half of the time and rejecting preemption about half of the time,” Tager said.

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