June 29th, 2009
10:13 AM ET
13 years ago

BREAKING: White firefighters win high court appeal

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/29/supreme.court.discrimination/art.supreme.cnn.jpg caption="The Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling backed firefighters in a 'reverse discirmination' case Monday."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. Supreme Court sided Monday with white firefighters in their workplace discrimination lawsuit, a divisive case over the role race should play in job advancement.

In the split 5-4 vote, a majority of the justices ruled that the city of New Haven, Connecticut, improperly threw out the results of promotional exams that officials said left too few minorities qualified.

Only one Latino and no African-American firefighters qualified for promotion based on the exam; the city subsequently decided not to certify the results and issued no promotions.

A group of 20 mostly white firefighters sued, claiming "reverse discrimination."

High court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor heard the case on her federal appeals court last year and sided with the city.

The Supreme Court was being asked to decide whether there was a continued need for special treatment for minorities, or whether enough progress has been made to make existing laws obsolete, especially in a political atmosphere where an African-American occupies the White House.

"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," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority.

Full story

Filed under: Sonia Sotomayor • Supreme Court
soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. Rick in OP

    Sotomayor has been reversed….again!
    How can this person be given serious consideration as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States of America?

    June 29, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. Tate

    About time hard work get rewarded. Maybe we can teach a whole generation that not working and waiting for the goverment to take care of you because of your skin color is wrong. Hard work and being lazy has nothing to do with skin color. I am so happy for the men who worked hard and glad the lazy guys did not get jack and get what they deserve.

    June 29, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  3. chuck

    I am a liberal, but this is really a common sense case. You simply read this case and apply common sense. Sotomayer sided with the city because they were afraid of being sued by the African Americans who could not pass the test. The city never feared that the opposite would happen, but it did. I am a liberal and completely concerned about this new justice being presented to Congress. This ruling is a big hole in her ship. Didn't Obama know that this case was in the pipelines and could really hurt his nominee if the Supreme Court likely swung the other way? I guess he was silly enough to think that the Supreme Court would side with Sotomayer. Sotomayer basically said that she was in favor of dumbing down America. This reminds me of the high schools that don't give zeros to students. The lowest possible score that they can get is a 50, even if they do not turn in their school work.

    June 29, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  4. Flex

    The SCOTUS majority is creepy, and out of touch with reality!

    June 29, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I believe this was a just ruling.

    June 29, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  6. Scott, Tucson

    This was a no brainer but with libs you never can tell.

    Just promote those qualified individual fire fighters who have shown the knowledge, training and expertise for the job regardless of race. I'm sure there were whites and Hispanics who also failed the test. It was unfortunate that no Blacks passed the exam but there would be other tests for promotions, just hit the books and study hard! Lowering the bar just to accommodate a particular race to pass a test is doing a disservice to those fellow fire fighters and that city citizens.

    June 29, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  7. sms29s

    The split decision is proof enough that Sodermeyer's ruling was in the mainstream. This should not reflect badly on her at all.

    June 29, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  8. bert

    We have a black President now so it proves that racism does not exist anymore in America.
    There is no need to fight the racist people out here in America. It is best to just let them die out. This new and seemingly boundless information age will help the younger generations come closer together and achieve greater things together than we ever could of imagined. It is easy to overcome racism. Just start with the God in you. Whenever you feel racist or you are having a racist moment just concentrate on the love inside of you instead of the fear that is the root of the racist emotions and behavior you have. Just be better and you are better.
    The saddest part of this is that there are masses of people being effected by racist decision makers throughout our society.

    June 29, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. Chad, CA

    While I don't know enough about the case to say one way or the other, I do think the firefighters should have been hired. Then the test should have been reviewed and or changed, to make sure everything was above board. Why does everything have to be so complicated?

    I also don't like the implication that "whites" studied for the test, and blacks did not. Nothing is ever...excuse the pun....that black and white.

    June 29, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  10. Danny E. Gonzalez

    Clearly the Department handle the entire affair wrongly; this veredict appears to allow a segmentation of classes. perhaps all too common in our society; I believe that the firefighters in questions did deserve the promotion; I also don't disagree with a review of the standards to ensure that the expectations are not out of reach of minorities. I hope something positive comes out of this, however I fear that the GOP will use this againts Dems for all its worth... welcome to politics I guess.

    June 29, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  11. Bleeding Heart

    Good news to this liberal's ears!

    I am living proof that you can be a liberal and believe that : 1) The discimination that has been going on against blacks in this country for over 300 years is wrong. 2) Racial discrimination is always wrong, regardless of the race of the instigator and the victim. 3) This nation should do everything possible to eliminate all forms of discrimination and provide redress to those who are victimized by it. 4) Two wrongs never make a right.

    Note to the radio blowhards, their listeners, and other broad-brushers on the right: Contrary to your assertions, most liberals have a sense of basic fairness, just as most conservatives have a basic sense of live and let live.

    June 29, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  12. rick

    Tough case – changing the test is not "lowering the bar". I think I agree with the ruling- but we need to make sure that we are doing our best not to set up situations where discrimination is implicit.

    June 29, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  13. pt

    "Fear of litigation" would be reason to fire any member of any union ( or any other action on any member in society) based on the lower courts' decision reasonings. These "learned" justices need to get an education in common sense and morality. ("They are so smart, they are stupid." "What goes for the goose, goes for the gander.") Sotomayor has voted for discrimination of a selection of people. The Supreme Court denied the lower courts' non-logic for blatant racism and perverse justice.

    June 29, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  14. rick

    June 29th, 2009 10:59 am ET

    Sotomayor has been reversed….again!
    How can this person be given serious consideration as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States of America?
    The supreme court reverses a good majority of cases it hears- she has plenty of cases they did not think needed to be reheard. Also, it was a split decision- 4 judges sided with her.

    June 29, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. Your daddy

    "The Supreme Court was being asked to decide whether there was a continued need for special treatment for minorities, or whether enough progress has been made to make existing laws obsolete, especially in a political atmosphere where an African-American occupies the White House."

    As an attorney and constitutional scholar, I would love to hear the support the author had for that statement. I thought the case was about something a lot more specific.

    June 29, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Lisa from B'ham

    No one should have to face discrimination on or off the job. But I'm glad the these guys got a taste of what minorities have been experiencing since the Mayflower. It doesn't set well with your soul when you know you're qualified and the employers know, yet they pass you over due to race. I know whites will fight like hell, but it's harvest time. Sins of the father's will have there children's teeth set on edge while the cowards slumber in their graves. I hope, however, we can get pass these grueling lessons soon. End discrimination today and watch our country flourish tomorrow.

    June 29, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  17. Color Blind

    Fact is that no one should get a position because of their race nor denied one for the same reasons. Qualifications, experience, test results should be the same for all. Enough.

    Sotomayor's been shot down and this will give further cover to a fillibuster as it should. I'm Obama backer, but he flubbed this nomination.

    June 29, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. jlas

    It is time that circumstances be judged on more than race, so I appreciate this ruling. It would be wise for our society to look more closely at why a certain demographic may have failed and where we as a community are falling short in our expectation of personal responsibility and education rather than alter the requirements for job satisfaction. As a woman, I loathed the concept that standards would be lowered for me in the case of firefighting (such as the weight of victims)-instead, help me to meet the requirements so that I can become the best firefighter. you get the idea...

    June 29, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. Annette from Columbus

    I find it interesting that in your reporting of the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the firefighters there was not one mention that Sonia Sottomayor was the appeal judge who was just overturned by the Supreme Court....keep up the good work for the state media. Shame on you for not reporting the unbiased story.

    June 29, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  20. G SMITH PA

    The good guys win. Discrimination is wrong, no matter who it is. The only way we are going to get rid of discrimination is to judge people on their qualifications, not on their gender,race or religion.

    June 29, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  21. mk

    Yeah for white firefighters everywhere, the only job in the country that has a pre-requisite of having a family "tradition" as the ONLY qualification.

    June 29, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. Just My Opinion in Texas

    One note on this case ... one of the white firefighters is dyslexic. He paid, out of his own pocket, for a tutor to help him study for the test. He scored one of the HIGHEST scores on the test.

    To those who believe that the lower court ruling should stand ... How can you justify your opinion? This man, this firefighter with a provable learning disability took it upon himself to do what was needed to study and pass this test ... and he DID it!

    If HE could find a way to pass this test ... why didn't everyone else who DIDN'T have a learning disability??

    Not judging ... just asking.

    June 29, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  23. inofritzn

    Notch it up to a WIN for minorities that want to be treated equal.. No free lunch just a level playing field

    June 29, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. Steve, NJ

    From what I read about the case, this was the appropriate decision. Jobs should be based on merit, job qualifications, performance, etc. Race shouldn't be an issue when hiring. The best candidates no matter whether they are black, white, hispanic, asian, arabic, etc., should be hired.

    Too bad our new Supreme Court Justice, who I feel should not be appointed, does not agree.

    June 29, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. Laurie in Spokane

    I think this case was a no-brainer for the Supreme Court. Tthe firefighters took the test, passed, and then the City of New Haven changed the rules after the fact. What a farce. Of course it was reverse discrimination. And, not all minorities failed the test so the test itself wasn't at fault.

    June 29, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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