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Thread: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

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    Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has ruled that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.

    New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African-Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters were likely to be made lieutenants or captains based on the results, the court said Monday in a 5-4 decision. The city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.

    http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009...Fire.html?_r=1
    I hope they ask Sotomayor what she thinks about this reversal because I am curious how she reacts when she's reversed.

    No surprise about the 5-4 ruling with Kennedy being the swing vote.

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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    Great News, lets just hope the 5 Justices can make it another 8 years.


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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    I should point out that while I am a liberal, I support this decision (although I need to read the whole thing).

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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    Quote Originally Posted by aps View Post
    I should point out that while I am a liberal, I support this decision (although I need to read the whole thing).
    My question, in light of this decision, is whether Sotomayor made her ruling colored by emotion rather than by the law. If this is the case, then she should not be confirmed.
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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    Quote Originally Posted by danarhea View Post
    My question, in light of this decision, is whether Sotomayor made her ruling colored by emotion rather than by the law. If this is the case, then she should not be confirmed.
    The fact that it's a 5-4 ruling would indicate that her ruling isn't all that "wrong." I'd be concerned if it was a 9-0 or 8-1 ruling. So her ruling must have some basis in law.

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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    The decision was definitely solid

    Source [Supreme Court of the United States | RICCI ET AL. v. DESTEFANO ET AL. (PDF Direct Link)]

    New Haven, Conn. (City), uses objective examinations to identify thosefirefighters best qualified for promotion. When the results of such an exam to fill vacant lieutenant and captain positions showed thatwhite candidates had outperformed minority candidates, a rancorouspublic debate ensued. Confronted with arguments both for and against certifying the test results—and threats of a lawsuit eitherway—the City threw out the results based on the statistical racial disparity. Petitioners, white and Hispanic firefighters who passedthe exams but were denied a chance at promotions by the City’s re-fusal to certify the test results, sued the City and respondent officials,alleging that discarding the test results discriminated against thembased on their race in violation of, inter alia, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The defendants responded that had they certifiedthe test results, they could have faced Title VII liability for adoptinga practice having a disparate impact on minority firefighters. The District Court granted summary

    [...]

    Under Title VII, before an employer can engage in intentionaldiscrimination for the asserted purpose of avoiding or remedying an unintentional, disparate impact, the employer must have a strong basis in evidence to believe it will be subject to disparate-impact li-ability if it fails to take the race-conscious, discriminatory action. The Court’s analysis begins with the premise that the City’s actions

    [...]

    The racial adverse impact in this litigation was significant, and petitioners do not dispute that the City was faced with a primafacie case of disparate-impact liability. The problem for respondentsis that such a prima facie case—essentially, a threshold showing of a significant statistical disparity, Connecticut v. Teal, 457 U. S. 440, 446, and nothing more—is far from a strong basis in evidence thatthe City would have been liable under Title VII had it certified thetest results. That is because the City could be liable for disparate-impact discrimination only if the exams at issue were not job relatedand consistent with business necessity, or if there existed an equallyvalid, less discriminatory alternative that served the City’s needs but that the City refused to adopt. 2000e–2(k)(1)(A), (C). Based on the record the parties developed through discovery, there is no substan-tial basis in evidence that the test was deficient in either respect. Pp. 26–28.
    (ii)

    [...]

    Respondents also lack a strong basis in evidence showing an equally valid, less discriminatory testing alternative that the City, bycertifying the test results, would necessarily have refused to adopt.Respondents’ three arguments to the contrary all fail.

    [...]

    Fear of litigation alone cannot justify the City’s reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations andqualified for promotions. Discarding the test results was impermis-sible under Title VII, and summary judgment is appropriate for peti-tioners on their disparate-treatment claim. If, after it certifies the test results, the City faces a disparate-impact suit, then in light of today’s holding the City can avoid disparate-impact liability based onthe strong basis in evidence that, had it not certified the results, it would have been subject to disparate-treatment liability
    That's the meat of the decision, and the bolded section is, IMO, the most important bit. It sets a firm standard that qualifications matter and race doesn't. Discriminating against one party because you're afraid of a lawsuit from another is unacceptable

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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    Quote Originally Posted by aps View Post
    I hope they ask Sotomayor what she thinks about this reversal because I am curious how she reacts when she's reversed.

    No surprise about the 5-4 ruling with Kennedy being the swing vote.
    I am more interested in her explanation of why she sought to dispose of the matter with a perfunctory summary opinion that ignored every issue in the case.

    That is her most grievous error in the Ricci case--that she utterly failed to do what appellate judges are supposed to do: interpret the law.

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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    Quote Originally Posted by aps View Post
    The fact that it's a 5-4 ruling would indicate that her ruling isn't all that "wrong." I'd be concerned if it was a 9-0 or 8-1 ruling. So her ruling must have some basis in law.
    You would think so....but how much law can one paragraph contain?

    5-4 with a dissenting opinion makes one aspect of this case a certainty: there were substantial matters of the law to be considered.

    Sotomayer's one-paragraph summary opinion ignored all of them.

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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    I've not read the entire ruling. Let alone do I fully understand the legal issues or legalize with which it is written. However, the thing that jumps out at me. Is that the dissenting opinion goes to great lengths to use past discrimination to justify tossing the test results. It also seems to suggest that by whatever means necessary. Public employment should reflect the racial diversity of its citizenry. So if the population is 60% black. Then 60% of public employees should also be black. How is using race to justify employment. Fair and equal treatment under the law? I also don't like the fact that they said that second and third generation firefighters had an unfair advantage over first generation minorities. That this advantage was racial in nature. So much for hard work and dedication.

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    Re: Justices Rule for White Firefighters in Bias Case

    Just think, if she was already confirmed, it would have been the other way.


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