Monday, June 29, 2009

New Haven Firefighters 20, Sotomayor 0

An additional question for Judge Sotomayor: What do you think of the majority's reasoning in Ricci v. Destefano?
The Supreme Court today narrowly ruled in favor of white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., who said they were denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision by Judge Sonia Sotomayor and others that had come to play a large role in the consideration of her nomination for the high court.
The city had thrown out the results of a promotion test because no African Americans and only two Hispanics would have qualified for promotions. It said it feared a lawsuit from minorities under federal laws that said such "disparate impacts" on test results could be used to show discrimination.
In effect, the court was deciding when avoiding potential discrimination against one group amounted to actual discrimination against another.
The court's conservative majority said in a 5 to 4 vote that is what happened in New Haven.
Addressing the disparate impact question, Justice Kennedy for the majority wrote that...
[T]here is no evidence —let alone the required strong basis in evidence—that the tests were flawed because they were not job-related or because other, equally valid and less discriminatory tests were available to the City. Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer’s reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions. The City’s discarding the test results was impermissible under Title VII, and summary judgment is appropriate for petitioners on their disparate-treatment claim.
The full, 93-page opinion (including the dissent) can be found here.

ABC News quotes Karen Torre, the lawyer for the 19 white and one Hispanic firefighter(s), as follows:
I think the import of the decision is that cities cannot bow to politics and pressure and lobbying by special interest groups, or act to achieve racial quotas. If the test is job-related, especially in a dangerous occupation, then the fact that more African Americans pass, or more Hispanics pass, or more whites pass, isn't sufficient grounds to ignore the results of an occupational test.