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Sotomayor's '78 discrimination complaint

From NBC's Pete Williams
When Sonia Sotomayor was in her final year at Yale law school, she pulled a gutsy move by filing a complaint against a law firm that was interviewing her for a job. She forfeited any chance of working at that firm, but ended up getting an apology.

After a Yale student-faculty hearing determined that one of the firm's lawyers asked her discriminatory questions, the firm said his actions were "insensitive and regrettable."

All of this arose after a dinner in October 1978 at which the lawyer met with Sotomayor and other Yale students. The tribunal concluded that he asked her, "Do law firms do a disservice by hiring minority students who the firms know do not have the necessary credentials and will then fire in three to four years?"

It also found that he asked if Sotomayor would have been admitted to the law school if she were not Puerto Rican, and whether she was "culturally deprived."

The day after the dinner, Sotomayor challenged the lawyer at her formal job interview. According to news accounts at the time, he said he didn't mean any harm and invited her to the firm's headquarters for another interview. Instead, she filed a formal complaint.

The issue galvanized the Yale campus. The student-faculty tribunal refused to accept the firm's first letter of apology, deeming it insufficient. The second letter was accepted, and the firm was allowed to continue recruiting at Yale.

The firm was then known as Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge. It recently merged and is now Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman.

The incident was the subject of a report on Dec. 16, 1978 in the Washington Post and was brought back to light today by the Los Angeles Times.