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Black Firefighters Ask to Intervene in 'Ricci'

In an end-of-term decision handed down in June, the Supreme Court in Ricci v. DeStefano decided that New Haven's decision to discard results of a firefighter promotion examination violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The city through out the test after results came back showing that white candidates had significantly outperformed minority candidates. But the city's action prompted white firefighters who scored well to file the lawsuit that eventually brought the case to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to the U.S. District Court in Connecticut, where the court has ordered the parties to confer and file suggestions on how to settle the case and allow promotions to proceed. This week brought a major development in the case, as Daniel A. Schwartz reports at Connecticut Employment Law Blog. A group of black firefighters filed a motion to intervene, claiming their rights would be "irrevocably impaired" if they are not allowed to participate. Schwartz has the text of their motion and memorandum.

The black firefighters are represented by employment lawyers Dennis R. Thompson and Christy B. Bishop of Thompson & Bishop in Akron, Ohio, and W. Martyn Philpot Jr. of New Haven. They argue that their interests in the case will not be protected by any of the current parties.

Schwartz says that this motion "was not unexpected" but was not expected this soon. Last week, he notes, this same group of black firefighters filed complaints with the EEOC claiming that if New Haven were to proceed with certifying the test results and making promotions based on those results, the minority firefighters would be harmed. But Schwartz believes these black firefighters face a big hurdle in light of the Supreme Court's ruling.

To overcome the Supreme Court's language, they claim that they are primarily claiming that they have been treated in a discriminatory fashion, and not merely impacted in a discriminatory way. They also claim that the Supreme Court's language was merely dictum and not binding on future courts.

There is no way of knowing how the District Court will rule on the motion to intervene or what impact it ultimately will have on the outcome of the case. But one immediate conclusion seems clear, Schwartz writes: "It is clear that despite efforts by the Ricci parties to work towards a resolution, the case is far from being concluded in one form or another."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 18, 2009 at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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