Finally, a Supreme Court decision on Ricci v. Destefano, the racial discrimination case in which the city of New Haven refused to promote firemen who passed a 2003 managerial test because of the color of their skin -- white. In a vote of 5-4, the court reversed lower court rulings, including one signed onto by Supreme Court nominee and "wise Latina" Sotomayor, upholding New Haven's discriminatory practices. From the Wash Post:
"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," Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his opinion for the court. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the white firefighters "understandably attract this court's sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion. Nor have other persons received promotions in preference to them."
Who said anything about "vested rights"? The plaintiffs merited promotion according to the fire department's own measure.
Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter and John Paul Stevens signed onto Ginsburg's dissent, which she read aloud in court Monday.
Kennedy's opinion made only passing reference to the work of Sotomayor and the other two judges on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who upheld a lower court ruling in favor of New Haven.
But the appellate judges have been criticized for producing a cursory opinion that failed to deal with "indisputably complex and far from well-settled" questions, in the words of another appeals court judge, Sotomayor mentor Jose Cabranes.
"This perfunctory disposition rests uneasily with the weighty issues presented by this appeal," Cabranes said, in a dissent from the full 2nd Circuit's decision not to hear the case....
In New Haven, Nancy Ricci, whose son, Frank, was the lead plaintiff on the lawsuit, carried a large cake decorated with red, white and blue frosting into the law office where the firefighters were celebrating their victory.
Ricci's father, Jim Ricci said the ruling is a victory for firefighters across the country. "Now we're going to get the best managers as far as firefighters go. That's really important," Ricci said.
It's not just a victory for firefighters. This vindication of merit and hard work is a victory for democracy. It's also a living, breathing illustration of why Judge Sotomayor must not be confirmed to the Supreme Court.