Ricci v. Destefano Overturned

Jillian Bandes
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Posted: Jun 29, 2009 10:14 AM
A decision by Sonia Sotomayor and two other judges was overruled by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision this morning. The move probably won't impact her confirmation but will undoubtedly provide more fodder for critics who are focusing in on Sotomayor's views on race.

The ruling, Ricci v. Destefano, said that 20 white firefighters who were denied a promotion after they took a leadership test were unfairly discriminated against; the test results that would've qualified them for the promotion were thrown out after no black firefighters scored high enough. Sotomayor had previously ruled that discriminating based on race was acceptable in this situation.

Sotomayor's controversial attitudes towards race were first aired when it became clear that her comments about "wise Latinas" were a common refrain in her public speeches:
I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
The court's decision to overturn Sotomayor comes at a critical time, given that her confirmation hearings will occur in just two weeks. The news media swarmed the Supreme Court as the case was decided.

Ricci v. Destefano was launched in 2007. The firefighters who had done well enough on the test to qualify for the promotion had spent time studying for the test, and spent hundreds of dollars on test prep materials. Their argument was that throwing out the test results because of the race of those who were successful amounted to reverse-discrimination. Sotomayor ruled against them.