Lilly Ledbetter and the SCOTUS Pick

May 26, 2009 at 10:00 am | Posted in Supreme Court | Leave a comment
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Read Toobin’s piece in the New Yorker on Justice Roberts (I swear it’s not the only magazine I read!) over the weekend, where he touched upon the Ledbetter v. Goodyear case from 2007.

The case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear, brought by a sympathetic grandmother who had been paid far less than men doing the same work at the tire company, became a political flashpoint because the conservative majority, in an opinion by Alito, imposed seemingly insurmountable new burdens on plaintiffs in employment-discrimination lawsuits. (Ginsburg, in an unusual move, read her dissent from the bench.) In all these cases, Roberts and Alito joined with Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Kennedy to make the majority. On this final day, Breyer offered an unusually public rebuke to his new colleagues. “It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much,” Breyer said.

It seems clearer now after news of the pending Sotomayor pick how much the Ledbetter case colored Obama’s views on what kind of justice he wanted to succeed Souter. The case reveals a deep contrast in the constitutional philosophies of Obama and Roberts, and most likely helped Obama define what qualities he wanted in a justice, who would, in effect, serve as a direct counter-force to Roberts on the bench.  In a sense, Obama’s decision was not only about nominating a justice who reflected left-leaning values, but someone who embodied the anti-Roberts. Remember, Obama’s first bill to sign into law as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

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