Monday, June 29, 2009
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that white firefighters in New Haven, CT 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 — the court decided in a 5-4 decision, 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 city said that it had acted to avoid a lawsuit from minorities.
The ruling could make it harder to prove discrimination when there is no evidence it was intentional.
The ruling also provides fresh fodder to critics of Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor who claim she lacks the judicial wisdom and temperament to site on the Supreme Court.
In a decision that came down along the usual ideological divide that has come to define the court in recent years, Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined in the opinion:
“Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer’s reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions.”
Dissenting, were Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Souter and Stevens.