Supreme Court takes up city firefighters’ case

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday it would hear the reverse discrimination case brought by 20 New Haven firefighters who claimed they were denied promotion because of their race.

Nineteen white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter sued the city of New Haven in 2004 after the city threw out the results of promotion exams for lieutenant and captain. No blacks had scored well enough to get promotions, and city officials said they feared that promoting the white firefighters might have caused the low-scoring black firefighters to bring a discrimination suit.

The suit, Ricci v. DeStefano, has gone through several appeals. Most recently, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss the case. In a 7-6 vote, the full 2nd Circuit declined to rehear the case.

Karen Torre, the attorney representing the firefighters, said in a statement that “while we cannot predict what the outcome of the Supreme Court review will be, we hope that this case will restore the civil service to what it should be: a public work force of the very best chosen on the basis of individual merit, free of the divisive politics of race.”

City Hall issued a statement saying it looks forward to presenting its case to the Court.

“While the City is not surprised that the Supreme Court decided to grant cert in this case, it remains confident that the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals correctly decided the issue,” the statement said.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case in April.

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