Ideologically-Charged Decision in Ricci v. DeStefano Ignores History, Precedent

In a statement issued today on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision on Ricci v. DeStefano, Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron said that the “majority’s opinion ignores our nation’s history, rejects precedent, overturns the judgment of local government officials and makes it more difficult for employers to take voluntary steps to break down barriers to equal employment.”

“Continuing its assault on our civil rights laws, the five conservative ideologues on the Supreme Court today rejected long-standing law to weaken Title VII protections for traditional victims of discrimination,” said Aron.

Before the Court issued its ruling, People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker said that: “Opponents of Judge Sotomayor have gone to great lengths to use the ruling of her panel in Ricci v. DeStefano against her, and they will surely ramp up their efforts if the Supreme Court overturns the Second Circuit. But the simple fact is that the Supreme Court’s ruling, whatever it may be, will not reflect upon Sotomayor’s jurisprudence.

“Sotomayor and her panel colleagues were bound by longstanding precedent and federal law. They applied the law without regard to their personal views and unanimously affirmed the district court ruling. To do anything but would have been judicial activism.

“The full Second Circuit backed up the panel, which came as no surprise. Nearly ten years earlier a Second Circuit panel — consisting of three GOP nominees — reached the same conclusion in a similar case (Hayden v. County of Nassau).

“When a case virtually identical to Ricci came before the Sixth Circuit — Oakley v. Memphis — a panel rejected the plaintiffs’ claims and affirmed the district court ruling. Notably, they did so in an unpublished summary order, and one of the three judges was conservative Bush nominee Richard Allen Griffin.

“In other words, Sotomayor is anything but an outlier. She and the seven other federal judges who decided Ricci and Oakley at the district and circuit levels were unanimous in determining that precedent and federal law required the rejection of the suits.”

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