by Max Brantley
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today sided with white New Haven firefighters in an employment discrimination suit. This reverses a decision that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appellate judge.
Kennedy jointed the court's hard right contingent. Judge Ruth Ginsberg, speaking for the dissenters, noted that nobody was promoted over a white firefighter, the city merely scrapped use of a test.
UPDATE: People for the American Way will hold a news conference this afternoon to defend Judge Sotomayor and per position in this case. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who had joined a court filing in favor of upholding the ruling, will participate. Here's a good analysis of this case and why, when Sotomayor decided it, it was a sound judgment based on existing law.
Here's an account of that news conference. It was a good day for A.G. McDaniel, who bucked a howling gale from the right-wing noise machine by noting the problems this decision could cause. If you read all the links you'll see there's plenty of room for the argument that the Supreme Court majority today engaged in judicial activisim to override federal laws it didn't like. McDaniel will go straight into the lion's den tonight by appearing on Lou Dobbs' show.
The ACLU (see jump) says the decision doesn't mean -- yet, anyway -- the end of Title VII law against discrimination in employment practices. Give John Roberts time. Arkansas fringe groups rejoice.
ACLU NEWS RELEASE
NEW YORK – The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the City of New Haven, Connecticut wrongly threw out a promotion examination for the city's firefighters, saying there was not sufficient evidence that the exam's impact on minorities violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The majority's rejection of New Haven's basis for its actions – vigorously disputed in the dissent – creates a new and more onerous standard for evaluating government efforts to ensure equal opportunity. It is clear, however, that the decision leaves intact Title VII's prohibition against both discriminatory treatment and policies and practices that have a discriminatory impact upon protected groups. The decision does not require employers to accept test results that have a racially disparate impact, but it makes it harder to reject them. Further, the decision acknowledges a government agency's responsibility to invalidate test results when there is a strong basis in evidence to believe that relying on the tests would have an illegal disparate impact on minority promotion-seekers.
The following can be attributed to Dennis Parker, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program:
"We are disappointed with today's decision because we believe that the city of New Haven had stronger reasons for believing that its test was discriminatory than the court acknowledged. However, the Court was clear today that employers need to scrutinize their hiring procedures before administering them to ensure that they are fair and non-discriminatory. Moreover, the decision leaves room for employers to take steps voluntarily to assure that discrimination in the workplace is eliminated and to guarantee that efforts to assure fair and equal access to employment can continue."
A copy of today's decision is available online at: www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/08pdf/07-1428.pdf
Additional information about the ACLU Racial Justice Program is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice