ADL Welcomes Supreme Court Decision in Ricci Firefighters Case
New York, NY, June 29, 2009 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, in which the court held that white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut were unfairly denied promotions because of their race.
ADL submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, urging the court to require the strictest of reasons for the city's race-conscious decision. The League argued the city's decision to ignore the results because it feared being sued had to be supported by a "strong basis in evidence." These arguments were adopted by the court.
Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
The Supreme Court's decision in Ricci v. DeStefano is a welcome reaffirmation that the government must have a strong basis in evidence to support any race-based decision.
This decision properly forecloses many instances of governmental race-based decision making, particularly those where government unilaterally seeks to correct what it sees as racial injustice for one group while unfairly burdening another.
We are pleased that in making its decision, the Court clearly reaffirmed the central role of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, a fundamental law that ensures that America's workplaces will remain free of racial discrimination and that an employee's race will never be a barrier to opportunity.
We are pleased that the arguments in our brief were substantially adopted by the court. Unfortunately, however, the court did not go one step further to give New Haven an opportunity to justify its position in light of the new "strong basis in evidence" standard.
The promotional exam involved in Ricci was intended to determine who would be promoted to certain officer positions in the department. When the results of the exam were tallied, it was apparent that mainly white firefighters would be immediately promoted as a result. Instead of certifying the exam and promoting the firefighters, the city threw out the exam, claiming that it would be subject to a lawsuit by African-American fire fighters. The white firefighters sued, claiming racial discrimination.
ADL's 95-year history is marked by a commitment to protecting the civil rights of all persons, whether they are members of a minority group or of a non-minority group, and to assuring that each person receives equal treatment under the law. Although great progress has been made in the area of civil rights, the work is certainly not complete and discrimination and inequality persist.
The League's brief was authored by Michael Smith and Martin Karlinsky of the law firm Butzel Long.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.