ABC senior legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg on Thursday examined a controversial decision judge and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made on racial discrimination, while, at the same time, repeatedly declaring that it would be "almost impossible" for Senate Republicans to derail her promotion to the high court. Talking with "Good Morning America" host Robin Roberts, Greenburg asserted, "She's qualified. She's experienced. It's going to be almost impossible for Republicans to do anything to stop her."
Later, after recounting the large Democratic majority, she again proclaimed, "And it's going to be almost impossible, like I said." Now, considering the unfolding revelations about Sotomayor's comments on legislating from the bench, her assertion that a "wise Latina woman" would often reach a better conclusion than a white male, wouldn't it make more sense to not portray the federal judge's nomination as inevitable and as a self fulfilling prophecy?
On balance, however, Greenburg should be commended for filing a report that actually examined the 2003 case of a white, New Haven, Connecticut firefighter who filed a discrimination lawsuit after being denied a promotion, despite obtaining the highest score in a exam. Greenburg pointedly explained the involvement of the nominee: "Sotomayor and two fellow judges dismissed the white firefighters claims and 2000 pages of court papers and filings in one paragraph."
Greenburg also featured a conservative voice, Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network. She observed, "It leads one to think that Judge Sotomayor and her two colleagues who were involved in the case, simply wanted to bury the claims of the New Haven firefighters."
A transcript of the May 28 segment, which aired at 7:13am, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: We're going to turn now to the brewing battle over President Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court. Judge Sonia Sotomayor is back home in New York after the historic announcement at the White House. She is facing a confirmation fight from Republicans who are already building their case against her by focusing in on a ruling she made in a discrimination case involving firefighters. Senior legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg has more on that for us. Good morning, Jan.
ABC GRAPHIC: New Nominee's Race Case Controversy: White Firefighters Claim Discrimination
JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Good morning, Robin. You know, that decision is before the Supreme Court. And conservatives have seized on it in these early efforts to try to build a case against Judge Sotomayor. This wasn't a traditional discrimination case.
LT. MATT MARCARELLI (New Haven, CT Fire Department): Every day I go to work, I have to pin this lieutenant's badge on me, it reminds me, I got screwed out of a captain's badge because of the color of my skin.
GREENBURG: Matt Marcarelli, a 15-year veteran firefighter got the top score on a promotions exam. He was first in line for captain. But not everyone did so well. In fact, not one of the 28 black candidates in a field of 118, scored high enough to be promoted.
VICTOR BOLDEN (Attorney, New Haven City): It looks like the exam might have been discriminatory against some of the minority test-takers. And that was certainly a red flag for the city under the law.
GREENBURG: Black firefighters said the test was unfair.
LT. GARY TINNEY (New Haven, CT fire department): Written tests aren't the way to judge a person on how they perform at their job.
GREENBURG: The city decided to throw out the test results, fearing a lawsuit by the black firefighters. They got one anyway, from the white and Hispanic firefighters, who said New Haven's discriminated against them. They lost in court and they appealed. And that's how the case got to Sonia Sotomayor. What has all of Washington talking is what happened next. Sotomayor and two fellow judges dismissed the white firefighters claims and 2000 pages of court papers and filings in one paragraph.
WENDY LONG (Counsel, Judicial Confirmation Network): It leads one to think that Judge Sotomayor and her two colleagues who were involved in the case, simply wanted to bury the claims of the New Haven firefighters.
GREENBURG: On the next appeal to the full 13-member court, the judges were more conflicted. Six sharply objected to the short, unsigned on to the opinion, saying it failed to examine any of the law. The Supreme Court agreed to consider the case. In arguments last month, the justices indicated they may rule against the city and give the white and Hispanic firefighters another chance. Now, Sotomayor's supporters defend that one-paragraph decision. They say the law was so clear, she really didn't need to do anything more. We'll see what the Supreme Court says next month. Its decision is expected before Sotomayor's confirmation hearings get under way. Robin?
ROBERTS: Well, Jan, of course her friends are saying one thing. Republican-leaning voices are saying quite another, even going as far as to call her, being a racist [sic]. How effective can those efforts be in derailing her nomination?
GREENBURG: Well, Robin, at the end of the day, Republicans are saying privately, and some that I've spoken with, that they really see no chance. I mean, you have got a solid majority of Democrats in the Senate. You have got a really popular President. So, unless something, you know, scandalous comes out and we have no indication that's going to happen at this point. She's qualified. She's experienced. It's going to be almost impossible for Republicans to do anything to stop her.
ROBERTS: It's rare to see someone not get a nomination. Not to be confirmed. I mean, we've had withdrawals. Harriet Miers comes to mind. Bork, of course, was rejected, But, it's not that common, is it?
GREENBURG: No. You've got to go 20 years, really, to Judge Robert Bork. The Senate rejected his nomination based of his ideology. They didn't agree with his approach to the law. But, that was a really different time. Democrats had control of the Senate. And you had a Republican in the White House. You know, here you have got Democrats in the Senate and a Democrat in the White House. And Republicans are kind of, just sitting there, trying to make this case. And it's going to be almost impossible, like I said.