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Ricci don’t use that number

New Haven Fire Department

Yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Ricci v. DeStefano predictably resulted in lots of bloviating by gasbags who didn’t let complete ignorance of the court’s holding get in the way of releasing tons of heated air into the atmosphere.  Having actually read the 93 page decision I am happy to inform you that it is neither the end of Affirmative Action nor a repudiation of Sonia Sotomayor.

First of all a little background:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C.§2000e et seq., as amended, prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII prohibits both intentional discrimination (known as “disparate treatment”) as well as, in some cases, practices that are not intended to discriminate but in fact have a disproportionately adverse effect on minorities (known as “disparate impact”).

When originally enacted Title VII only prohibited intentional discrimination in employment. A subsequent SCOTUS decision and later an amendment added employment practices that while neutral on their face had the effect of discrimination. An example of this would be a requirement that police officers be at least 5 ft 10 inches in height, because such a requirement would tend to discriminate against women and Asians because most of them could not meet that requirement.

An employer can still use “disparate impact” practices if the practice has “a manifest relationship to the employment in question” and there was no “legitimate alternative that would have resulted in less discrimination.”  Understanding Title VII is key to understanding the decision.  (The court spends a couple pages discussing what I just condensed into two paragraphs.)


The Facts:

The city of New Haven, Connecticut has been sued over racial discrimination before:

In the early 1970’s, African-Americans and Hispanics composed 30 percent of New Haven’s population, but only 3.6 per-cent of the City’s 502 firefighters. The racial disparity in the officer ranks was even more pronounced: “[O]f the 107officers in the Department only one was black, and he heldthe lowest rank above private.” Firebird Soc. of New Haven, Inc. v. New Haven Bd. of Fire Comm’rs, 66 F. R. D. 457, 460 (Conn. 1975).
Following a lawsuit and settlement agreement, see ibid., the City initiated efforts to increase minority representation in the New Haven Fire Department (Department). Those litigation-induced efforts produced some positive change. New Haven’s population includes a greater proportion of minorities today than it did in the 1970’s: Nearly 40 percent of the City’s residents are African-American and more than 20 percent are Hispanic. Among entry-level firefighters, minorities are still underrepresented, but not starkly so. As of 2003, African-Americans and Hispanics constituted 30 percent and 16 percent of the City’s firefighters, respectively. In supervisory positions, however, significant disparities remain. Overall, the senior officer ranks (captain and higher) are nine percent African-American and nine percent Hispanic. Only one of the Department’s 21 fire captains is African-American.

So New Haven tried to do the right thing:

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It’s Official…Al Franken, “Number 60” Should be/is on His Way to the Senate

al_franken

The long-awaited decision is finally in from the Minnesota State Supreme Court:

From Talking Points Memo:

The Minnesota Supreme Court has handed down its much-expected ruling in the heavily-litigated Minnesota Senate race from 2008 — and it’s a unanimous one — deciding against Republican former Sen. Norm Coleman’s appeal of his defeat in the election trial and affirming the lower court’s verdict that Democratic comedian Al Franken is the legitimate winner of the race.

This, in conjunction with Governor Tim Pawlenty’s promise

UPDATE:  This just in…Coleman concedes.  It’s really going to happen.

It’s going to be interesting to watch.