When you hotswap is anything else already grabbing later devices? I wonder if you end up with sde as something else already has sdc and sdd (Optical drives, card readers etc).
This computer's got two hard drives in sdc and sdd, which are in a software RAID 1; sda is the boot drive. The two optical drives seem to be scd0 and scd1. The eSATA device is sdb on bootup.
I'm running Ubuntu 8.10 and I see /etc/udev/rules.d/61-persistent-storage-edd.rules that does hook up disks to /dev/disk/by-id/<blah> based on their id, although this is kind of the opposite of what you are looking for in that different disks will get farmed out to different paths, but at least the same disk always gets farmed out to the same path regardless of what /dev/sd<blah> it is. The network and CD stuff in 70-persistent-net.rules 70-persistent-cd.rules and their generators at 75-cd-aliases-generator.rules 75-persistent-net-generator.rules might be closer to what you are looking for, especially the network one.
OK, I'll have a look.