December 5, 2016
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Supreme Court Dings Race Preferences...and Sotomayor

 

 

 


Roger Pilon, vice president for legal affairs:


In its opinion today in Ricci v. DeStefano, the Supreme Court came down solidly for upholding the equal protection of the law.

The political implications of this decision for the Sotomayor nomination are several, but her refusal to wrestle with the important issues at stake and to side summarily with the city, together with her many statements off the bench about “identity politics,” should make for very interesting confirmation hearings just two weeks ahead.

The Court reversed the decision of the Second Circuit panel on which Judge Sonya Sotomayor sat, which had upheld, summarily, the lower court’s decision to allow the city of New Haven to throw out the results of a racially neutral promotion exam for city firefighters after whites did better than blacks on the exam.

As the Court said, all the evidence suggests that the city rejected the test results because the higher scoring candidates were white. The city’s rationale for engaging in this intentional discrimination was to avoid a suit by black firefighters. But the city could take the position it did only if there were strong evidence that its test was racially biased or not job related or that there was some other equally valid non-discriminatory test that the city refused to administer. There was no such evidence, the Court concluded. Had the city been sued by the black firefighters, it would have won. Thus, it’s rationale for throwing out the test results will not withstand scrutiny. The city engaged in outright intentional discrimination.


Ilya Shapiro, senior fellow, Center for Constitutional Studies and editor-in-chief, Cato Supreme Court Review:

 


Ricci is a victory for merit over racial politics—which is appropriate given that the ruling overturns a lower court panel that included Sonia Sotomayor.

 

In the blockbuster decision we’d been awaiting all term, the Court reached the correct result: The government can’t make employment decisions based on race. While the city’s desire to get more blacks into leadership positions at the fire department is commendable, it cannot pursue this goal by denying promotions simply because those who earned them happen to have an inconvenient skin color.

 

This ruling is the latest in a series of steps the Court has taken to strike down race-conscious actions that violate individual rights—and thus is a blow both to the Obama administration (which sided with the city in Ricci) and to the nomination of Judge Sotomayor. Those who bring cases before the courts deserve much more than empathy or even “sympathy”—the word Justice Ginsburg uses in her dissent—they deserve equal treatment under the law.


Cato Institute scholars are available for comment on this and other major news issues of the day.  To arrange an interview, please dial Cato Media Relations at 202-789-5200 or e-mail pr@cato.org

 



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