High Court Rules for White Firefighters

5-4 decision reverses appeals panel that included Sotomayor
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 29, 2009 9:31 AM CDT
In this March 5, 2009 file photo, the Supreme Court Building is seen in Washington.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, FILE)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court has ruled that white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge. In a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the court said that New Haven was wrong to scrap a promotion exam because no African Americans and only two Hispanic firefighters scored high enough to make lieutenant or captain.

"Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions," Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion. He was joined by John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the white firefighters "understandably attract this court's sympathy. But they had no vested right to promotion. Nor have other persons received promotions in preference to them."