On the Ricci Case

It appears that Sonia Sotomayor’s participation in a panel that ruled against the plaintiff in the Ricci case related to fire department promotion policies in New Haven will be at the center of the case against her. Under the circumstances, it might be useful for folks to familiarize themselves with the facts. As Doug Kendall and Dahlia Lithwick explain:

What does Ricci’s dyslexia have to do with the law? Very little, actually. The city of New Haven threw out the results of the test he took because it feared that the examination was discriminatory. That’s because none of the African-American candidates, and only two of the 50 minority candidates, who took the test would have been eligible for promotion based on the results. Regardless of how you and I may feel about Frank Ricci or how much he deserved to be promoted, discriminatory results like that can run afoul of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And in this case the results of the test far exceeded the statistical cutoff that suggests a constitutional violation has occurred.

When the case was argued before the Supreme Court last month, all of the justices seemed to agree that New Haven had to comply with valid federal statutes. Mr. Ricci did not challenge the constitutionality of Title VII. So the only real question before the court was whether New Haven had reason to believe that if the city used the test results it would be sued under Title VII. Mr. Ricci’s specific circumstances—his race, his dyslexia, and his professional aggravation—have no bearing on that legal question at all.

The point they’re making is that empathy-hating conservatives don’t seem to have a problem playing the empathy card when they think doing so will help them get results that they like.