Lawyers' Committee Outraged by U.S. Supreme Court's Ricci Decision

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Stacie B. Royster Miller
202-662-8317, office
202-445-6101, mobile
smiller@lawyerscommittee.org

Lawyers' Committee Outraged by U.S. Supreme Court's Ricci Decision

Case Involving Equal Opportunity in Employment Testing Threatens Constitutional Values of Equal Justice for All

WASHINGTON -  In a 5 to 4 decision in the case of Ricci v. DeStefano,
the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the city of New Haven,
Connecticut violated Title VII when it declined to make promotions in
the fire department on the basis of a test that disproportionately
screened out minority candidates. 

"We are shocked by the decision and we will continue our work to
preserve the vital protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964," said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers'
Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  "Like Justice Ginsburg, we
anticipate that the decision ‘will not have staying power.'"

In this case, the city of New Haven, Connecticut declined to certify
the results of a firefighter promotion test based on evidence that the
test discriminated on the basis of race.  The city also had evidence
that more fair and effective tests were available.  Rather than making
promotions on the basis of the discriminatory test, the city declined
to certify the results, and sought to explore less discriminatory
alternatives, in keeping with its obligations under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964.  When the city declined to make promotions on
the basis of the test results, firefighters who had scored highly on
the test filed suit, alleging that the city discriminated on the basis
of race. 

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law had urged the
Court to uphold New Haven's efforts to root out discrimination from its
promotional process, consistent with civil rights laws and the
Constitution.  The Lawyers' Committee's amicus curiae, or friend of the
court, brief was joined by the National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People, the National Urban League, and the Equal Justice
Society.

"Today's decision ignores the plain language of Title VII,
congressional intent and established precedent," said Sarah Crawford,
senior counsel with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law's
Employment Discrimination Project.  "We still have far to go to fulfill
Title VII's promise of equal employment opportunity.  This is a giant
leap backward."

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The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law.

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