Monday, June 29, 2009

Supremes Vote for Frivolous Lawsuits

Overturning a ruling that was upheld by Supreme Court Justice Candidate Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court today, in a 5 to 4 decision, rewrote the rules on how and when municipalities can evaluate whether someone is going to sue them.

The Court ruled that the City of New Haven, Connecticut cannot exercise its prerogative in anticipating racial bias lawsuits.

The case had to do with a test that was taken by Black, White and Hispanic firefighters to qualify them for promotion. No Black test taker passed the test, but 20 White test takers did. Anticipating that use of this test to decide who gets a promotion would be seen as a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, resulting in subsequent litigation, the City of Hartford decided to trash the test.

In writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy put it this way:

“Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations ad qualified for promotions”

The City of New Haven, in being vigilant and with a sense of fair play, was simply covering itself. They were providing a safety valve to avoid an unpleasantness. Because, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote, racial bias has had a long historical relationship with fire departments.

So now, when this happens again, and it will, there must actually be a lawsuit filed alleging racial bias before cities can act.

This decision by these 5 conservative justices on the Supreme Court has virtually ensured an increase in race bias lawsuits from coast to coast.

Has ensured that municipalities will have to pay more in legal fees to defend themselves.

Has ensured that lawyers will file more lawsuits, maybe frivolous lawsuits, thus gumming up the court systems even more than they are already.

The only people that win in this are the 20 White firefighters.

And, oh yeah, lawyers.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure the black firefighters will do better on the test when they re-take it given President Obama is in office (similar to research Hal cites regarding improvement in black student testing). So this shouldn't be an issue.

So if you think you might get sued, it's ok to keep 20 qualified white candidates from assuming a position they are fully qualified for? Is it also to keep 20 qualified black candidates from assumming a position they are fully qualified for? Simply because you might get sued?

Anonymous said...

I am not for, nor against, affirmative action. I think that it has to be viewed on a case by case basis (I do recognize its historical necessity in some areas). However, in my mind the real question in the New Haven case is simply "Why did the 20 white candidates pass and all of the black applicants not pass"? Was the testing itself biased? Was there a "cheat sheet" for the white applicants that the black applicants did not have access to? Were the test questions different based upon race?

If all applicants got the same test questions then the basis for promotion must be based upon the pass / fail issue. Should it not?

I have yet to find this question asked anywhere that I have read / looked so far. Why? Did I miss something somewhere?

I have to agree with the seeming base premise of your article, that being that the only winners here are the white applicants (justified or not) and lawyers who want to file lawsuits (justified or not).

Lawyers. That simple word could be a good reason for citizens of all political persuasions to keep them selves well armed both literally and figuratively.

Anonymous said...

Can't New Haven just dump the test and give a different reason for doing so rather than it was "to avoid potential litigation"?

Hal said...

You would think so, but then what do you tell these 20 very litigious firefighters?