Wall Street Journal on Ricci v. DeStefano: Supreme Court says no to race-based quotas


The Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci v. DeStefano is very good news. The court said clearly and decisively that employment law only rarely permits quotas to remedy racial imbalance.

Most racial preferences — for example, in college admissions — are shrouded in secrecy and dishonesty. Not here. In 2003, after 58 whites, 23 blacks and 19 Hispanics took tests to determine who would qualify as captains and lieutenants, no blacks and two Hispanics ended up eligible for promotion. The city’s civil service board refused to certify the results, denying promotions to all who had earned them. As the chairman of the New Haven Board of Fire Commissioners had earlier told the firefighters, many of whom were Italian, some men would not be hired because “they just have too many vowels in their name[s].”

Seventeen white candidates and one Hispanic sued, claiming a violation of their legal and constitutional rights. They struck out in the district court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Janet Bond Arterton, who wrote the district court opinion, cavalierly dispensed with a trial on the facts, issuing instead a summary judgment. In the Second Circuit, Judge Sonia Sotomayor joined two colleagues in a panel decision affirming the district court’s decision; the substance of their opinion was confined to one paragraph.

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