JUNE 29, 2009
In a blow to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, the High Court has reversed Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s decision involving white firefighters who were unfairly denied promotions because of their race.
As a judge on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, Sotomayor ruled against the 20 white firefighters whose promotion examinations were invalidated because no blacks scored high enough on the test required to move up to fire lieutenant and captain.
The city administered the exam, divided between written and oral questions, to 118 candidates, 27 of them black. None of the black firefighters scored high enough to qualify for about a dozen available promotions so officials, fearing a discrimination lawsuit, scrapped the test results and promoted no one.
Twenty white firefighters (at least one of them Hispanic) who passed the test sued the city for reverse discrimination but they were defeated in federal court and later by a three-judge appellate panel—that included Sotomayor—that rejected their lawsuit, saying the city acted legitimately to avoid discrimination against blacks.
In its lengthy 5-4 decision the Supreme Court cited a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender or religion. It also points out that “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.”
In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she anticipates that the court’s order and opinion will not have staying power because nearly 60% of New Haven citizens are black or Hispanic yet the city is served “by a fire department in which members of racial and ethnic minorities are rarely seen in command positions.”
Obama’s controversial Supreme Court nominee undoubtedly agrees with that assessment. Judicial Watch continues investigating Judge Sotomayor and, earlier this month, released a special report on her strong connections (12 years as a top policy maker on its Board of Directors) to the leftist Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
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