Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The End of Racial Preferences?

Two recent newspaper stories (available online) highlight the fact that race is, once again, a major factor in lawsuits before the United States Supreme Court. Joan Biskupic, writing in USA Today, talks about four cases the Court will hear this week that could radically reshape civil rights laws in the United States. The article, available online here, does a terrific job of setting for the expected positions of the justices, as well as the position of the President and Attorney General.

One of the cases discussed by Ms. Biskupic that will be heard this week is Ricci v. DeStefano, which is an employment discrimination case. David Savage, writing in the Los Angeles Times, goes into greater depth on the facts of that case and its potential impact. While Mr. Savage's entire article deserves a read (click here), in a nutshell:

Frank Ricci, a firefighter in New Haven, Conn., study hard for a civil service test for a chance at a promotion. Although Mr. Ricci earned the top score, he did not get his promotion. The City, after determining that no blacks would be promoted as a result of the test, rejected all the test scores and promoted no one.

At issue in the New Haven case is whether an employer can weigh the racial effect of a hiring or promotional standard. Justice Roberts has previously made it clear that it is time to forbid the use of race as a factor in the government's decisions, so the outcome of this case could have broad implications for the use of race in employment decisions.

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