For Release: June 29, 2009
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or
or [email protected]
Black Activists Praise Supreme Court's Affirmative Action Decision
Justices' Ruling Throws Sotomayor Nomination into Serious Question
Washington, D.C. - With the U.S. Supreme Court dealing a stinging blow to race-based employment practices, members of the Project 21 black leadership network are praising the Ricci v. DeStefano decision as a step toward removing the racial trappings of a by-gone era and putting all Americans on equal footing.
"It was clear to this Court that barring people from promotion because of the color of their skin is wrong. The only downside is that four justices still cling to an outmoded and discriminatory line of thought," said Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie. "True equality allows people to rise and fall on their merits. That's what this decision protects. How can one oppose such fairness?"
In a 5-4 decision, the Court reversed the lower court ruling, barring the use of race as the sole factor in promotions. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, "Fear of litigation alone cannot justify the City's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions."
The decision also casts serious doubt on the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. She was a member of the appeals court panel that issued the one-paragraph opinion overturned today. Now, she must explain to senators how she could be so much at odds with her potential future colleagues.
"Justice is supposed to be blind, but the opinion she joined in the Ricci case - now overturned by the Supreme Court - shows Sonia Sotomayor believes justice should be based on ethnicity," added Project 21's Massie. "Her ruling in Ricci is an unambiguous example of her placing her feelings and personal prejudices above what the law dictates or allows."
The Ricci case revolves around a 2003 promotions exam given to firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. After the tests were scored, only two Hispanics and no blacks scored high enough to qualify for promotion. After black and Hispanic activists pushed to have the test results thrown out, the city's Civil Service Commission effectively did so by deadlocking 2-2 on the decision to certify the exam.
After the results of the exam were set aside by the city, 20 New Haven firefighters - one Hispanic and 19 white - sued based on the claim of reverse discrimination. The city was granted summary judgment at the district court level, and a panel of judges that included current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor sided with the lower court in a eight-sentence opinion that called the previous opinion allowing the city to throw out the test scores based on race "thorough, thoughtful and well-reasoned."
In a concurring opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote of the question of empathy for those passed over: "But 'sympathy' is not what petitioners have a right to demand. What they have a right to demand is evenhanded enforcement of the law... And that is what, until today's decision, has been denied them."
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.