[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
Do you remember Ricci v. DeStefano? Maybe not by that name, but it was more famously known as the New Haven Firefighter’s case.
I think it is useful when talking about what is happening today to look at the facts as set out by the Supreme Court in that case:
In 2003, 118 New Haven firefighters took examinations to qualify for promotion to the rank of lieutenant or captain. Promotion examinations in New Haven (or City) were infrequent, so the stakes were high. The results would determine which firefighters would be considered for promotions during the next two years, and the order in which they would be considered. Many firefighters studied for months, at considerable personal and financial cost.
When the examination results showed that white candidates had outperformed minority candidates, the mayor and other local politicians opened a public debate that turned rancorous. Some firefighters argued the tests should be discarded because the results showed the tests to be discriminatory. They threatened a discrimination lawsuit if the City made promotions based on the tests. Other firefighters said the exams were neutral and fair. And they, in turn, threatened a discrimination lawsuit if the City, relying on the statistical racial disparity, ignored the test results and denied promotions to the candidates who had performed well. In the end the City took the side of those who protested the test results. It threw out the examinations.
Certain white and Hispanic firefighters who likely would have been promoted based on their good test performance sued the City and some of its officials.
So the case went to the Supreme Court and the Court ruled that throwing out the test results was unlawful discrimination against the white and Hispanic firefighters. I think the concluding paragraphs of this opinion are equally relevant and indeed ironic given what happened today:
Our holding today clarifies how Title VII applies to resolve competing expectations under the disparate-treatment and disparate-impact provisions. If, after it certifies the test results, the City faces a disparate-impact suit, then in light of our holding today it should be clear that the City would avoid disparate-impact liability based on the strong basis in evidence that, had it not certified the results, it would have been subject to disparate-treatment liability.
Petitioners are entitled to summary judgment on their Title VII claim, and we therefore need not decide the underlying constitutional question. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
So what happened today to make that ironic? The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a black firefighter can sue the New Haven Fire Department based on literally the same decision. So basically the New Haven Fire Department lost in the Ricci case, was ordered to go forward with the promotions, and are now being sued for that exact decisions.
And I don’t mean that they are being sued for a similar decision, either. I mean they are being sued for the promotions specifically involving Ricci and company.
They are literally being sued for obeying a court order. Mull that over for a moment and realize that our justice system is being reduced to absurdity.