Stuart Taylor's piece is available from the National Journal here
What's more striking is that the court was unanimous in rejecting the Sotomayor panel's specific holding. Her holding was that New Haven's decision to spurn the test results must be upheld based solely on the fact that highly disproportionate numbers of blacks had done badly on the exam and might file a "disparate-impact" lawsuit -- regardless of whether the exam was valid or the lawsuit could succeed.
This position is so hard to defend, in my view, that I hazarded a prediction in my June 13 column: "Whichever way the Supreme Court rules in the case later this month, I will be surprised if a single justice explicitly approves the specific, quota-friendly logic of the Sotomayor-endorsed... opinion" by U.S. District Judge Janet Arterton.
Unlike some of my predictions, this one proved out. In fact, even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 39-page dissent for the four more liberal justices quietly but unmistakably rejected the Sotomayor-endorsed position that disparate racial results alone justified New Haven's decision to dump the promotional exam without even inquiring into whether it was fair and job-related.
Justice Ginsburg also suggested clearly -- as did the Obama Justice Department, in a friend-of-the-court brief -- that the Sotomayor panel erred in upholding summary judgment for the city. Ginsburg said that the lower courts should have ordered a jury trial to weigh the evidence that the city's claimed motive -- fear of losing a disparate impact suit by low-scoring black firefighters if it proceeded with the promotions -- was a pretext. The jury's job would have been to consider evidence that the city's main motive had been to placate black political leaders who were part of Mayor John DeStefano's political base.
Disparate-impact law, as codified by Congress in 1991, specifies that an employer whose qualifying exam or other selection criterion produces racially disparate results can be held liable for unintentional discrimination only if (1) the test is not "job-related... and consistent with business necessity," or (2) the employer is presented with and refuses to adopt another, similarly job-related test with less disparate impact.
Contrary to the Sotomayor-endorsed opinion, the Ginsburg dissent states (on page 19) that an employer's decision to jettison a promotional test under circumstances like this case would be legal only if the employer had "good cause to believe the [test] would not withstand examination for business necessity."
Ginsburg added (on page 26 and page 33) that "ordinarily, a remand for fresh consideration" would be proper because the lower courts (including Judge Sotomayor) had not carefully considered the evidence of "pretext" and racial politics. . . .
Labels: discrimination, Sotomayor, SupremeCourt