8128 – Yelling Discrimination in a Crowded Courtroom


A race to the finish is one thing, but if you’re finished because of your race, well, that’s quite another.  This case, recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, was closely watched, both because it involved allegations of racial discrimination by white firefighters of the City of New Haven Fire Department and because Judge Sonya Sottomayor took part in the Lower Court decision.  Forty-one candidates took the test and when the smoke cleared, 22 had passed – 16 whites, 3 blacks and 3 Hispanics.  The immediate cry was the test was discriminatory, as proved by the fact that so few minority applicants passed it.  That’s called the disparate impact test, and the City decided to throw out the test result because of it.  The white firefighters sued and the Lower Court backed the City, but the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that no individual should face workplace discrimination based on race.  Four justices dissented, writing that a city that’s 60% Latino and African-American has to do better.  But the majority ruled and, basically, it’s as simple as black and white.


Frank Ricci v. John D’Stefano, et al., U.S. Supreme Court, No. 07- 1428 and 08-328, Kennedy, J., June 29, 2009, U.S. Law Week, Vol. 77, No. 50, Pg. 5639