Supremes Get It Right

29 Jun

The Supreme Court came to the right decision today, in Ricci vs. DeStefano, in which 18 white firefighters in New Haven brought suit because they were passed over for promotion. It turns out you can’t change the rules half way through the game just because you don’t like the result.

First, a thought on Sotomayor. Yes, she was part of the three judge panel on the 2nd Circuit that just got overturned. No, that alone does not make her unqualified to sit on the Supreme Court; no more so that Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter or Stevens, who voted in the minority here. But much is also being made of the fact that Sotomayor had “no choice” in how she voted when hearing the case on the 2nd Circuit. I’m not sure I buy that. After all, she has bragged that Circuit Courts set policy. Was precedent so overwhelming here that she couldn’t find in favor of Equal Protection? I am not a lawyer, but it seems like you could at least write an opinion before you take away someone’s promotion.

Second, a thought on the merits of the case. Its about time that discrimination is seen as discrimination not matter which direction it flows in. New Haven was not in an impossible situation, as they have described. They can set the standards for promotion, and even include “extra points” for being a minority. But when your Affirmative Action weighted system still produces no African-American candidates, you live with the results. We do want the most qualified firefighters, don’t we?


Conservatives take quite a beating for being unfeeling automatons, for not understanding that laws affect real people, and not being empathatic enough.

So someone, who disagrees with the ruling in the case, please explain something to me. Explain how denying Frank Ricci his promotion atones for decades of discrimination against minorities living in other parts of the country, or even in New Haven. Is Frank Ricci a statistic, a demographic, or is he a real person being discriminated against? Frank Ricci wasn’t even alive during the worst of authorized segregation and Jim Crow – why punish him for someone else’s sins? What did Frank Ricci ever do to you?

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