In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the firefighters who were denied promotion because not enough (any) black applicants scored well enough on the test to deserve a promotion, were unfairly discriminated against (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/29/AR2009062901608_pf.html). Well, the ruling is more nuanced then that, but the ruling is in favor of the firefighters who were denied promotion. Sotomayor had ruled against the firefighters.
The Obama administration is saying that the close ruling shows that Sotomayor is not an activist (http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D994HS400).
In one sense this decision supports the notion that Sotomayor would not change the ideological balance of the court. The fact that it was close (5 to 4) will not hurt her chances of being confirmed to the supreme court as much as if the decision was more lopsided. While the actual vote may not have a significant impact, there is another potential problem she may face from this case.
Ed Whelan explains that while the ruling was 5-4, all nine supreme court justices sided against Sotomayor (http://bench.nationalreview.com/post/?q=OTBhOTEzMTZhMmMyNDczNTE5MjA4MTI0Mjk1Zjc5MDA=); "Ginsburg doesn’t believe that final disposition of the case is appropriate. She and her fellow dissenters therefore believe that Sotomayor and her Second Circuit colleagues and the district court were wrong to grant summary judgment to the City of New Haven.".
Jonathan Adler opines similarly (http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2009_06_28-2009_07_04.shtml#1246287417); "the fact that it took the Court nearly 100 pages to resolve this question does cast a shadow over the Second Circuit panel's handling of the case, and may raise questions about her judgment. Initially, the panel upon which Sotomayor sat was ready to dispose of the case with an unpublished, unsigned summary order. Whatever the reasons for this (and we've seen some speculation), it's difficult to argue that this case was a simple no brainer of the sort that would justify that sort of resolution — and it's difficult to square the justifications for this disposition with the panel's subsequent decision to affirm the district court with a one paragraph, precedential opinion. The length of the Supreme Court's opinions (a 34-page majority, 39-page dissent, and two concurrences) is evidence that the case raised difficult and weighty issues. It reinforces the position of Judge Sotomayor's colleagues who criticized the panel's initial disposition and, on their own initiative (and without the filing of a petition for rehearing en banc), sought full court review of the case.".
Basically; Sotomayor's main potential problem from this case is not her decision, it is the process she used.
Will this be disqualifying, probably not. It will likely provide some fodder for the Republicans who will question her during the confirmation hearings.
Past related posts:
Berman Post: Supreme Court Justice David Souter Will Retire
Berman Post: Obama Comments On Supreme Court Justice David Souter's Retirement
Berman Post: Specter's Defection May Hurt Obama in Picking a New Supreme Court Justice
Berman Post: ObamasFrontrunners.com
Berman Post: Obama Nominates Sonia Sotomayor For Supreme Court Justice
Berman Post: Is Sotomayor a Racist?
Berman Post: When Life Experience Apparently Matters (in Politics)
Berman Post: Harry Reid on Sotomayor - "She's Written Hundreds And Hundreds of Opinions. I Haven't Read a Single One of Them"
Berman Post: Sotomayor Made Other Sexist Comments
Berman Post: Aide To Sotomayor - "Don't Answer Any Questions", Sotomayor to Aide - "I Know"
Berman Post: Sotomayor Was a Member of La Raza For Six Years
Berman Post: Sotomayor's Senior Thesis
Berman Post: Sotomayor Repeatedly Made 'Wise Latino Woman' Statements
Berman Post: Sotomayor Questionnaire Omits Death Penalty Memo, Said Death Penalty Is Racist
Berman Post: Sotomayor And Liberalism (She Said She Does Not Know What Liberalism is After Calling Herself One)
Berman Post: Does Sotomayor's Past Shows a Propensity to be Swept Away by Radical Causes or Theories That Relate to Her Identity?
Berman Post: Sotomayor Fractures Her Ankle
Berman Post: Confirmation Hearings For Sotomayor Start July 13
Berman Post: Sotomayor - "I Am A Product Of Affirmative Action"
Berman Post: 300 New Boxes of Sotomayor's Work Discovered