Posts Tagged ‘Ricci v. Destefano’

Supreme Court rules in Ricci’s favor

Monday, June 29th, 2009


Court Rules for White Firefighters, hence overruling Sotomayor:

The Supreme Court, voting 5-4 in a case that has been a lightning rod for high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, invalidated a Connecticut city’s decision to scrap the results of a firefighter promotion exam in which the white candidates scored better than their black peers.

While employers should actively work to create fair paths to promotion, they may not overturn tests based on the results, moderate conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court’s opinion.

“Once that process has been established and employers have made clear their selection criteria, they may not then invalidate the test results, thus upsetting an employee’s legitimate expectation not be judged on the basis of race,” Kennedy wrote. The court’s four other conservative justices joined Justice Kennedy’s opinion.

You can read the complete ruling here.

Law professor William Jacobsen points out,

Assuming Sotomayor is confirmed, her presence on the Court would have made no difference in Ricci, since she is replacing Souter. The 5-4 split likely will give Sotomayor’s supporters comfort, since while she would have been in the minority, several current Supreme Court Justices agreed with her conclusion in the case. Nonetheless, there is plenty of fodder for Sotomayor’s opponents, both in the rejection of her position by the Court and her failure to deal with these issues head on, deferring instead to a lower court’s opinion.

However, Ed Whelan points out that,

although there is a sharp 5-4 divide among the justices, not a single justice thought that Judge Sotomayor acted correctly in granting summary judgment for the City of New Haven.

Whelan also quotes Justice Alito on Judge Sotomayor’s Failure of Impartiality

Petitioners were denied promotions for which they qualified because of the race and ethnicity of the firefighters who achieved the highest scores on the City’s exam. The District Court threw out their case on summary judgment, even though that court all but conceded that a jury could find that the City’s asserted justification was pretextual. The Court of Appeals then summarily affirmed that decision.

The dissent grants that petitioners’ situation is “unfortunate” and that they “understandably attract this Court’s sympathy.” But “sympathy” is not what petitioners have a right to demand. What they have a right to demand is evenhanded enforcement of the law—of Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination based on race. And that is what, until today’s decision, has been denied them.

Check out Bench Memos for more on this case.

The irony of the case lies in Ricci, who is dyslexic, having rejected favoritism under the Americans With Disabilities Act, finally prevailing but after the expense and strain of taking his case all the way to the highest court in the country.

Identity politics is, in a word, wrong.