Constangy FYI
Supreme Court Overturns Ruling by Sotomayor Panel

June 29, 2009

Today the Supreme Court found in favor of a group of firefighters in a reverse discrimination case that had been watched closely -- primarily because Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice David Souter, was on the panel that had granted summary judgment to the defendant.

In Ricci v. DeStefano, the Supreme Court held 5-4 in favor of the firefighters, who alleged that the City of New Haven unlawfully scrapped a promotion test for firefighters after most minority candidates failed to score above the minimum acceptable level. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Connecticut, New York, and Vermont), which included Judge Sotomayor, had affirmed a grant of summary judgment in favor of the city, dismissing the firefighters' claims under Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. 

Voting to reverse the Second Circuit were Justice Anthony Kennedy (the author of the majority opinion), joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg dissented, joined by Justices Breyer, Souter, and Stevens. The majority did not address the Equal Protection claim but reversed based only on Title VII.

Constangy will follow up soon with a more in-depth analysis of the Supreme Court's Ricci decision.

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