In Ricci v. DeStefano, she sided with the New Haven city government against white firefighters who had claimed discrimination. They passed a test for promotions the city threw out after no minority firefighters passed it.
The case is now before the Supreme Court, so Sotomayor's colleague on the appellate court, Guido Calabresi, won't discuss it. But he does say the opinion reveals Sotomayor's judicial philosophy.
"While it decided the particular case," Calabresi said, "it wasn't deciding the law for this very difficult issue for everybody all the time."
Calabresi said Sotomayor is a "restrained" judge, who doesn't try to make law outside the scope of the case before her.
He's known Sotomayor since she was a first-year student at Yale Law School, and he was not just the dean, he was her professor, a professor who has kept his students' finals.
"I went back and looked at that and found, as I thought I'd remembered, that she had written a terrific exam," he said.