In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has reversed the appellate court decision on a controversial race case involving firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut.
Previously, the appellate court including Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, ruled that the city of New Haven did nothing wrong by throwing out the results of a promotion exam because no African Americans and too few Hispanic firefighters passed the test. In a decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the High Court disagreed:
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.
Kennedy was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Predictably, the dissenters came from the â€œliberal blockâ€ with the dissenting opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who said the white firefighters â€œhad no vested right to promotion. Nor have other persons received promotions in preference to them.”
Sotomayor has been criticized for the appellate courtâ€™s decision, partially for its ruling and partially for what some perceive to be simplistic and faulty legal logic. If the Supreme Court had reversed the ruling with something other than the usual 5-4 split, Sotomayor opponents may have found some traction with this issue. However, with retiring justice David Souter essentially voting to uphold the lower courtâ€™s ruling, I imagine this case will quickly fade from the Sotomayor debate.
Note: The original title of this post implied the court ruled in favor of only white firefighters. This is an inaccurate representation of the case as two of the firefighters receiving promotion are Latino.