The Supreme Court's decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, the case of the New Haven firefighters, was a ringing endorsement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's ban on racial discrimination and a repudiation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's decision in the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. While five justices flatly rejected Sotomayor's ruling, even the four dissenters wouldn't have let stand her ruling allowing the results of a promotion exam to be set aside because no black firefighter had a top score.
Ricci is also something else: a riveting lesson in political sociology, thanks to the concurring opinion by Justice Samuel Alito. It shows how a combination of vote-hungry politicians and local political agitators -- you might call them community organizers -- worked with the approval of elite legal professionals like Sotomayor to employ racial quotas and preferences in defiance of the words of the Civil Rights Act.
One of the chief actors was the Rev. Boise Kimber, a supporter of Mayor John DeStefano. The mayor testified for him as a character witness in a 1996 trial in which he was convicted of stealing prepaid funeral expenses from an elderly woman. DeStefano later appointed Kimber the head of the board of fire commissioners, but Kimber resigned after saying he wouldn't hire certain recruits because "they just have too many vowels in their name."
After the results of the promotion test were announced, showing that 19 white and one Hispanic firefighter qualified for promotion, Kimber called the mayor's chief administrative officer opposing certification of the test results.
The record shows that DeStefano and his appointees went to work, holding secret meetings and concealing their motives, to get the Civil Service Board to decertify the test results. Kimber appeared at a board meeting and made "a loud, minutes-long outburst" and had to be ruled out of order three times.
City officials ignored the inconvenient fact that they had hired an independent and experienced firm -- this is a thriving business -- to draw up a bias-free test and paid a competing firm to draw up another test. Its head testified that the first firm's test was biased without seeing it. The board capitulated and decertified the test. DeStefano was prepared to overrule it if it had gone the other way.
Such is governance these days in a liberal university town. It may remind some of us old enough to remember of the machinations and contrivances of Southern white officials and agitators employed to prevent blacks from registering and voting.
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