Monday, January 19, 2009

Supreme Court to Hear Racial Discrimination Case

by Daniel Bennett

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the Supreme Court will hear the Ricci v. DeStefano case. White and Hispanic firefighters from New Haven, CT filed a suit against the city government for ruling to throw out the results from a civil service exam that was required in order to be eligible for a promotion. The reason for throwing out the exams was that there were no blacks and very few Hispanics that passed with a qualified score.

The Chronicle article lists some of the key questions for the Supreme Court to address, including:
1. Whether city governments can throw out the results of a valid test that yields racially disproportionate results,
2. Whether Supreme Court precedents that bar employers from altering tests to produce desired racial outcomes also bar them from throwing out test results for reasons of race and
3. Whether federal courts can relieve municipalities from complying with state civil-service laws requiring race-blind, merit-based hiring
Several Advocacy groups, including The Center for Equal Opportunity, The American Civil Rights Institute and The Center for Individual Rights, have filed an amicus brief, suggesting that the
"City of New Haven threw out the results of a firefighters exam because it didn't like its racial results: not enough "diversity.""
The outcome of the case may have implications for colleges, including an affect on the hiring and admissions processes. The advocacy groups decry that if the City of New Haven's decision is upheld, that it
"would let colleges adopt “irrelevant” admissions criteria expected to favor minority applicants."

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