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Sotomayor delivers first court opinion of new term

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court's newest member, got to deliver the Supreme Court's first opinion of the new term.

It was also Sotomayor's first opinion as a Supreme Court justice. She joined the court in August.

Sotomayor read aloud the opinion she wrote at the beginning of Tuesday's court session.

The case was Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter, and involved a question of whether a lower court's decision on attorney-client privilege can be immediately appealed to a higher court.

Norman Carpenter sued Mohawk for wrongful termination after meeting with the company's lawyer, who was also involved in litigation on an undocumented workers lawsuit against Mohawk. Carpenter, in his suit, wanted the documentation from his meeting with Mohawk's lawyer.

While the federal judge agreed that the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege, the judge said Mohawk had waived its privilege through its disclosures in the undocumented workers litigation.

The Supreme Court agreed that the federal judge's decision releasing documents created by Mohawk Industries' lawyer could not be immediately appealed. "Postjudgment appeals, together with other review mechanisms, suffice to protect the rights of litigants and preserve the vitality of the attorney client privilege," Sotomayor said.

The judgment of the court was unanimous. Justice Clarence Thomas concurred with the judgment but disagreed with part of Sotomayor's analysis.

The case was Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter, 08-678.

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