Court Rules for White Firefighters

Postby Wizard CaT » Mon Jun 29, 2009 4:31 pm

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124629050175468575.html

JESS BRAVIN and KRISTINA PETERSON wrote:WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court invalidated a Connecticut city's decision to scrap the results of a firefighter exam after no black candidates scored high enough to ensure a promotion, a case that has been a lightning rod for high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the court's 5-4 conservative majority, said the city of New Haven violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination.

"Whatever the city's ultimate aim -- however well-intentioned or benevolent it might have seemed -- the city made its employment decision because of race," Justice Kennedy wrote. "The city rejected the test results solely because the higher scoring candidates were white."

Justice Kennedy said an employer cannot throw out an exam unless there is strong evidence that the test was unfair to minorities. In New Haven's case the evidence was quite the opposite, he wrote, as the city took specific steps to ensure that black and Hispanic firefighters were consulted in designing the questions and made up a majority of the interview panels that awarded 60% of the applicants' scores.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined the opinion.

Dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court's four liberals, said the majority overlooked a long history of racial discrimination in fire departments that justified extraordinary deference to present day efforts to promote diversity in the ranks.

She wrote that New Haven had reason to think the outcome pointed to a flawed promotional exam.

Justice Kennedy's opinion and the published dissent made scant mention of the appeals court decision that had affirmed New Haven's decision. Judge Sotomayor was on the three-member panel that, in a paragraph, upheld a lower court that sided with the city.

The case rested on the question of whether New Haven acted validly in choosing not to use the test results because the scores meant that no black candidates were eligible for promotion.

A group of white firefighters sued New Haven's mayor and other officials, arguing that the city engaged in unconstitutional race discrimination by blocking their promotions. City officials responded that the test may have discriminated against black test-takers, which could have placed New Haven in violation of federal civil rights laws if it had made promotions based on the test results.

Senator Patrick Leahy, (D., Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday criticized the court's decision and defended Ms. Sotomayor's ruling as a judge on the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"It is notable that four justices would have upheld the Second Circuit's ruling," said Mr. Leahy, who will lead Sotomayor's confirmation hearings next month. "It is less likely now that employers will conscientiously try to fulfill their obligations under this time-honored civil rights law."

Republican lawmakers criticized Sotomayor for the brevity of the Second Circuit's decision.

"The Second Circuit should have recognized the serious and unique issues this case raised and given it the thorough treatment it deserved," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), also a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs says the ruling, in his words, "rendered a fairly decisive opinion that she follows judicial precedent and she doesn't legislate from the bench."

Gibbs says that should put to rest claims by Sotomayor's Senate critics that she's an activist judge.

The spokesman says he is not concerned that the reversal may cause Ms. Sotomayor trouble in Senate confirmation hearings.

The firefighter case dates back to 2003, when New Haven decided to fill 15 slots for lieutenants and captains in its fire department. The city contracted the test's creation to a consultant company, which administered the test that fall. The exam consisted of a written, multiple-choice section, which counted for 60% of the total score and an oral assessment, weighted 40%.

Firefighters of all races had passed the test, but not proportionally. Of the 19 firefighters who qualified for a promotion, none were black, though two were Hispanic.

Troubled by the fact that the black firefighters had passed the test at roughly one-half the rate as the white firefighters, the city's civil service board held five public hearings and ultimately deadlocked on whether to certify the test scores, which resulted in no promotions across the board.

A trial judge ruled in favor of the city and the 2nd Circuit affirmed that decision.

Ms. Sotomayor and two other 2nd Circuit judges said New Haven, in refusing to validate the exams, "was simply trying to fulfill its obligations" under federal civil rights laws after it was confronted with test results that had a disproportionate impact on minorities.

The justices traditionally take pains to avoid the chance that they might influence the selection of a new member. But in reading a summary of her dissent from the bench -- itself a signal of intense disagreement -- Justice Ginsburg made pointed use of a word that has become ubiquitous in the confirmation debate.

The white firefighters who studied for the exam "understandably attract the court's empathy," she said. "But they had no vested right to promotion."

President Barack Obama has said that his judicial nominees should have "empathy" for the unfortunate. Conservatives have charged that he is inviting his nominees to replace adherence to law with their feelings.

In the printed dissent, Justice Ginsburg used the word "sympathy."
—--Brent Kendall contributed to this article.

Write to Jess Bravin at jess.bravin@wsj.com and Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@dowjones.com


http://online.wsj.com/ Sign up, why don't you?

And breaking away from my normal neutrality when posting a story, let me say I'm glad there was no "wise latina woman" to reinforce racism. 5-4 was to close as it is.
~Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.~ The Creation of Éa
Damn you Clemson University, you deleted the 'sploding Kay that Etherwings uploaded eons ago!
User avatar
Wizard CaT
Watermelon Graduate

  Offline
 
Posts: 904
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:32 pm
Location: Earth

Re: Court Rules for White Firefighters

Postby Shackler » Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:40 am

Good decision.
Shackler
Blueberry Class Leader

  Offline
 
Posts: 68
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 11:21 pm

Re: Court Rules for White Firefighters

Postby draque » Wed Jul 01, 2009 11:57 am

Thirded. I can understand the positive sentiment behind wanting to somehow force fairness on the situation, but the decision to toss the test results out was 100% based on racial trends. That's definitionally racist. : \
User avatar
draque
Watermelon Graduate

  Offline
 
Posts: 907
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 11:57 am
Location: <=CLEVER-LOCATION=>

Re: Court Rules for White Firefighters

Postby Coda » Fri Jul 03, 2009 5:49 pm

I can see where the other side is coming from, though; if the results made the test itself appear biased, perhaps a second look IS in order, especially if the test was supposedly engineered to be as racially neutral as possible.

Question is... how do you investigate this without causing more problems?
User avatar
Coda
Magickal Melon 666

  Offline
 
Posts: 762
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 12:19 pm
Location: Holy crap, Coda set an avatar

Re: Court Rules for White Firefighters

Postby Wizard CaT » Sat Jul 04, 2009 1:29 am

"New Haven paid a reported $100,000 to I/O Solutions to devise a nondiscriminatory test. It wound up being 60 percent written, 40 percent oral. To judge the candidates’ oral responses, New Haven paid to bring in 30 veteran fire department managers from around the country, two-thirds of them minority…” NY Times.

How much more do you want to pay?
~Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky.~ The Creation of Éa
Damn you Clemson University, you deleted the 'sploding Kay that Etherwings uploaded eons ago!
User avatar
Wizard CaT
Watermelon Graduate

  Offline
 
Posts: 904
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:32 pm
Location: Earth

Re: Court Rules for White Firefighters

Postby strange_person » Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:16 pm

Maybe they should focus on additional training for members of the underrepresented groups.
Hello!

Praise be to Athè, and Hob, Her living vessel.
2<3
For I have crescent pies to bake
And smiles to throw before I wake
User avatar
strange_person
2000 Post Medal Of Wow!

  Offline
 
Posts: 2274
Joined: Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:09 pm

Re: Court Rules for White Firefighters

Postby Coda » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:45 am

Better idea: additional training for those who didn't pass the test. That way you avoid further perpetuating racism -- don't grant aid to any "group", but to the individuals who need it.
User avatar
Coda
Magickal Melon 666

  Offline
 
Posts: 762
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 12:19 pm
Location: Holy crap, Coda set an avatar

Re: Court Rules for White Firefighters

Postby Alfador » Tue Jul 07, 2009 10:54 am

Coda wrote:Better idea: additional training for those who didn't pass the test. That way you avoid further perpetuating racism -- don't grant aid to any "group", but to the individuals who need it.


THIS.
Arf! *wagwagwag*
User avatar
Alfador
1000 Post Forum Master!

  Offline
 
Posts: 1208
Joined: Sun Jan 20, 2008 11:29 am
Location: Kirkland, WA


Return to The Political Arena

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron