Sotomayor Helped Hispanic Police Officers Challenge Promotions Exam

WASHINGTON - Sonia Sotomayor's controversial decision to oppose white firefighters in a reverse discrimination case overturned by the Supreme Court this week was not the first time the high court nominee was involved in a discrimination case involving public safety employees.

A Puerto Rican legal advocacy organization that Sotomayor used to belong to helped a group of Hispanic police officers in the 1980s challenge the promotion exams for New York police officers, arguing they were discriminatory.

On Tuesday, the organization, Latino Justice PRLDEF, sent the Judiciary Committee more than 350 pages of documents from the 12 years Sotomayor spent on its board, opening what could be an ugly new chapter in the debate over confirming the federal appeals court judge as the first Hispanic justice.

The Title VII discrimination case involving the police officers was settled, leading to twice as many Hispanics being promoted than before. A group of white officers fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court but lost primarily because they didn't intervene in the case sooner.

The case may give ammunition to Republicans, who have criticized Sotomayor's involvement in the group and called it radical.

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A GOP Judiciary Committee aide said the material details PRLDEF's opposition to failed conservative high court nominee Robert Bork and the group's ties to the community-activist group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, among other items.

The two most detailed documents released Wednesday are annual summaries from 1986 and 1987.  There is no indication that Sotomayor was involved in the drafting of the reports but as a board member she likely would have known of the Fund's efforts to help derail the Bork nomination.

"The Fund officially opposed the nomination of Robert Bork to the United States Supreme Court because of the threat he poses to the civil rights of the Latino community," the 1987 summary reads.

The document went on to describe PRLDEF's media outreach and work with other groups opposed to Bork.  It is unclear if Sotomayor held similar views on Bork who was the last high court nominee to lose a Senate floor vote.

Later in the same report, the Fund notes that it assisted organizations including ACORN to help poor Puerto Rican families obtain affordable housing. ACORN's community outreach efforts have been heavily criticized in recent years for being too politicized.

Republicans and Democrats teamed to request the documents, and GOP senators have suggested the delay in uncovering them is grounds for postponing hearings on the nomination, now set to begin on July 13. Democratic senators have not indicated any need to delay.

Wednesday's documents are only "the tip of the iceberg" according to a Republican source on the committee.

Earlier Tuesday, Cesar Perales, PRLDEF's president and general counsel, said he was planning in the coming days to send the judiciary panel several batches of meeting minutes from Sotomayor's period of service from 1980 until 1992, as well as pleadings from cases it handled while Sotomayor headed the board's litigation committee.

Formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Fund was founded in 1972 and is now called LatinoJustice PRLDEF. The group took up a number of causes during that time, including backing bilingual education and abortion rights and opposing the death penalty, which it equated with racism.

Its Web site has a link to an online petition supporting Sotomayor's nomination.  The site also encourages visitors to "check out the Truth Squad's response to the latest right-wing attacks."

Democrats defend Sotomayor's participation in what they call a mainstream civil rights organization.

It's unclear what effect, if any, the disclosures might have on Sotomayor's nomination, since she is said to have had no direct involvement with the group's legal activities. The litigation panel she sat on was an outside group that didn't participate in cases but set broad policy and guidelines.

"She was on the board of directors, she was not a member of the legal staff, so she was not directly involved in the legal arguments that we presented," Perales told The Associated Press in an interview. "Her role was to help us raise funds, set policy, hire the person who would run the organization. ... We don't expect to uncover anything particularly interesting."

Still, Perales and his staff have been combing through 300 cartons of documents for any bit of paper that might be pertinent to Sotomayor's confirmation. That includes any letter, report or memo written by any committee she served on during her dozen years on the board.

Perales said the Senate should have all the material by the end of the week.

"They'll have a lot to read," he said of senators. "We hope to produce them all by Friday -- even if we have to pull all-nighters."

FOX News' Shannon Bream and The Associated Press contributed to this report.