GMA host falsely reports that Ricci plaintiffs were "passed over for promotion in favor of less-qualified black candidates"

››› ››› LILY YAN

ABC's Bob Woodruff falsely reported that Ricci v. DeStefano was about firefighters "passed over for promotion in favor of less qualified black candidates." In fact, no one was promoted over any other; the test results were thrown out because of a racial disparity in the results.

On the June 29 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff falsely reported that Ricci v. DeStefano was about firefighters "passed over for promotion in favor of less qualified black candidates." In fact, no one was promoted. The city threw out a promotion test because of a racial disparity in the results; no African-Americans scored high enough to qualify for immediate promotion.

The district court stated in its opinion in Ricci, which was affirmed by a U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals panel that included Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor: "In March 2004 the New Haven Civil Service Board ('CSB') refused to certify the results of two promotional exams for the positions of Lieutenant and Captain in the New Haven Fire Department." The district court opinion later listed among the "largely undisputed" facts of the case that "[t]he board split two to two on the question of certifying each exam as a result of which the promotional lists were not certified" [footnote and citation omitted].

The city took the position that the test at issue in the case had a discriminatory effect. In the decision that Sotomayor joined denying en banc rehearing of the appeal of the district court's decision, Judge Barrington Parker -- a George W. Bush appointee -- wrote that "the City acted out of a concern that certifying the exam results would have an adverse impact on minority candidates." Parker also wrote that the city believed that "less discriminatory alternatives to this particular test existed."

From the district court's decision:

The board split two to two on the question of certifying each exam, see id. at 70-73, as a result of which the promotional lists were not certified.

Plaintiffs allege that the non-certification vote was due to political pressure, particularly by defendant Rev. Boise Kimber, a vocal African-American minister who, it is acknowledged by all parties, is a political supporter and vote-getter for Mayor DeStefano. Plaintiffs' theory is that the defendants urged the CSB not to certify the results in the interest of pleasing minority voters and other constituents in New Haven whose priority was increasing racial diversity in the ranks of the Fire Department. Plaintiffs further argue that this pattern of political manipulation is in keeping with prior actions by the City of New Haven disregarding the Charter-mandated Rule of Three in promotional decisions in the City's police and fire departments. In support of this argument, plaintiffs proffer evidence regarding prior litigation in the Connecticut Superior and Appellate Court, the substance and outcome of which is largely admitted by defendants, and which resulted in sharp rebukes against the City for violating the civil service rules. See Pl. L.R. 56(a)1 Stmt. ¶¶ 64-90; Def. Am. L.R. 56(a)2 Stmt. ¶¶

64-90. Plaintiffs argue that the apparent racial disparity in the results of the Lieutenant and Captain exams was due to the fact that hiring into, and promotion within, the Fire Department historically has been based on political patronage and promotion of racial diversity rather than merit; and they argue that the higher-scoring firefighters simply studied harder. In addition, they argue that the evident disparity was not appreciably worse on the 2003 examinations than other past promotional examinations.

Defendants argue that "the decision not to certify [the test] results was mandated by anti-discrimination federal, state and local laws." Def. Mem. in Support of Mot. for Summary Judgment [Doc. # 52] at 4. Alternatively, they argue that they had a good faith belief that Title VII mandated non-certification of the examinations, and they cannot be liable under Title VII for attempting to comply with that very statute. Defendants additionally argue that plaintiffs lack standing to bring their Equal Protection claim, or, if they do have standing, the claim lacks merit because all firefighters were treated the same, regardless of race, as no one was promoted as a result of the contested exams.

Plaintiffs counter that a "good faith belief" that certifying the test results would violate Title VII does not constitute a defense, as a matter of law, to an allegation of Title VII or Equal Protection violations against the plaintiffs.

[footnotes omitted]

From the June 29 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:

WOODRUFF: The Supreme Court hands down its decision this morning on a controversial case that could affect Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation to the high court. The reverse discrimination case revolves around 20 firefighters from Connecticut who claim they were passed over for promotion in favor of less qualified black candidates. They sued the city, lost, then appealed to Judge Sotomayor's court. She and her fellow appellate judges again ruled against the firefighters, saying the city was within its rights.

Posted In
Government, Nominations & Appointments, The Judiciary
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
Bob Woodruff
Show/Publication
Good Morning America
Stories/Interests
Supreme Court Nominations, Sotomayor Nomination
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