Supreme Court Update

Monday, June 29, 2009

Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate and founding editor of the XX Factor, talks about some recent rulings--as well as Justice Souter's last day on the bench. Also: Ted Shaw, a professor of law at Columbia Law School and former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, talks about the impact of today's Supreme Court ruling on the New Haven firefighters case--and what it means for the future of affirmative action.


Emily Bazelon and Ted Shaw

Comments [28]

Marcy from Brooklyn

To "Calls'em As I Sees'em" #26

"The reverse racism of the ignorant and arrogant left will not stand."

From Langley, VA

Enough said !!

Jun. 29 2009 12:14 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Yes Calls’em As I Sees’em, “Sotomayor overturned!”
Thank you, WNYC, for your excellence in journalism.

Jun. 29 2009 12:10 PM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

Sotomayor was overturned today -- n'ough said. The reverse racism of the ignorant and arrogant left will not stand.

Jun. 29 2009 11:46 AM
LS from Long Island

Couldn't you have found anyone who supported the decision? I think you're mischaracterizing the case.

It's not whether people passed some minimum requirement, the crux is that minorities' pass rate has to be at least 80% of the white pass rate.

Ricci's incredible steps for studying have been well documented. Everyone was given the same material to study, and yet one group is penalized because another didn't do well. I didn't hear even one example of a question that only whites could pass.

Please have more facts and fewer opinions the next time you present a controversial issue.

Jun. 29 2009 11:37 AM
mary from ny

I was a career civil servant for NYS. Promotional tests had 2 phases. The first was a written test. Scores were ranked and if you passed the written test, an oral test followed. After the oral exam, the 3 highest scoring candidates had to be interviewed when a position was available. This allowed a person's experience to be explored, and somewhat leveled the field. Not perfect, but not too bad.

I understand the differences between the New Haven scores were not great. I also understand there was another phase to follow the written test. I'd like to know more about this.

Jun. 29 2009 11:30 AM
Bill from New York

"Of course they would make that argument." Yes, of course, because if what they allege is true, they have a case. You don't throw a test out because you don't like its results: the participants understood the test to be determinative of a promotion and presumably they spent some time studying to get a promotion on its terms. Unless you can prove that the results were racially determined rather than race merely correlating in some vague way with the results (what percentage of the test-takers were minorities?--that's what matters, not the percentage of minorities in the local community), we have no reason to doubt that those who scored the highest were the ones who studied the hardest or had the most aptitude. There were whites who didn't score high enough for a promotion as well. What's their excuse?

Jun. 29 2009 11:28 AM
marcelo from Midtown, NYC

Talking about bias and may be racism in the media..

I don't see WNYC (or BL) flexing its media power over this Honduras military coup issue just like it does with Iran? Would it be because it considers Honduras a 'Banana (unimportant) Republic?

Jun. 29 2009 11:25 AM
David from new york

If an institution deems a test invalid because it doesn't seem to be fair to all test takers how is that discrimination.

The SAT is being fazed out because there is evidence that it is not a very good indicator of performance. It just doesn't hold the weight it did. Are universities going to be sued now by applicants who do better on the SAT?

Jun. 29 2009 11:24 AM
Marleny from Harlem



Let me say that again:


It's all discrimination. If a woman denies a man a job, because he is a man, that is discrimination, not reverse discrimination.

If an Asian person denies a White person to rent an apartment they are qualified to rent, that is discrimination, not reverse discrimination.

Discrimination is being treated differently/adversely for your class membership (age, race/color, national origin, sex, etc). To say that this is reverse is saying that discrimination only happens by White men to non-White men. The term "reverse discrimination" trivializes the destruction discrimination has on our collective American society and perpetuates discriminaiton. The use of "reverse discrimination" just demonstrates the dialogue that we have not had but desparately need to have in this country. We need to talk about this freely to each other in hopes that we can create the country our forefathers intended.

Jun. 29 2009 11:24 AM
Marcy from Brooklyn

This conversation is being racialised as a crypto analysis against Sonia Sotomayor competence !

I am quite disturbed by Brians take on this decision.

Jun. 29 2009 11:24 AM
TruckerBob from queens

Yeah that's really smart -- attack the potential careers of a bunch of white guys by disqualfying their tests because no brothers applied for the job. More BS from our so called fair "society."

Jun. 29 2009 11:24 AM
Andrew B. from New York City

It is absolutely inconceivable that either of the guests would be complaining about this test if black firefighters had scored higher than white ones.

This is a disgrace - they will keep moving the goalposts until they get the result they want.

Jun. 29 2009 11:22 AM
Rob from The Bronx

Has anybody shown a correlation between the test results and how good a firefighter is/becomes?

Jun. 29 2009 11:21 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Brian, you need to challenge the caller's nasty characterization about Clarence Thomas as "self-loathing"!! That's below the belt.

Jun. 29 2009 11:21 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Re the point about "passing" the test... what were the grade score spreads? There is a significant difference between passing with a 65 and passing with a 95.

I would think that if the scores were close, the city would have been in a better positiion to promote the minority candidates.

Jun. 29 2009 11:19 AM
bernard joseph from brooklyn

who do you want to be in charge of putting out the fires in your building...the guy who got the 66 or the 96 on the test? this has NOTHING to do with skin color.

Jun. 29 2009 11:19 AM
yh from brooklyn

i'm wondering why the test itself reveals that there is still a huge discrepancy in education for minorities v whites. This is representative perhaps of most standardized tests... This goes back to discrimination in schools.

Jun. 29 2009 11:18 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Is there a reason WNYC is allowing this decision on the CT FD test to be sensationalized as “Sotomayor’s Court” and a Decision “against Sotomayor”?
It’s rather Fox News-ish.

Jun. 29 2009 11:14 AM
Query from Manhattan

OK, I know that this is not going to be popular, but...

Given that racial injustice is bad, given that the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws is terrible, given that racism in America still exists...

At what point do we say about affirmative action, enough is enough? How many of these problems are being exacerbated by affirmative action which carries with it the stigma that blacks can't make it on their own?

Jun. 29 2009 11:14 AM
Brian from Brooklyn

Please get someone to explain how a test for firefighters can be racist.

Jun. 29 2009 11:13 AM
Linda from Harlem

Brian, You seem to be getting some sort of joy from this decision,

This 5 to 4 decision will have a negative impact on minorities in this country in favor of whites,

I guess when you are in the privileged class this seems like a great thing.

Right Brian !

Jun. 29 2009 11:10 AM
BRF from Brooklyn

Like commenter #2, I need to know more about the test. I haven't heard anyone explain what if anything might have been culturally or racially imbalanced in it. So was this a bad test that yielded bad results, or was it a fair test being retroactively criticized because we don't like the results? A bad test deserves criticism, and a diverse firefighting force is to the good for everyone, for a lot of reasons. But the work is a life and death matter both for the fire fighters and the citizens they serve. It's fair not to want the test to be something rigged together just to satisfy demographics.

Jun. 29 2009 11:09 AM
Matt from Bk

Brian, why do you keep on using the term "Racial Justice," as if the opinion that it would "be" justice is fact.

It sounds very creepy when you keep on - twice - using it like that

It seems to me plain that it's plain that it would be injustice for people burning in buildings to have less than qualified applicants on the job, but I understand that your opinion may be otherwise

Please do your usually stellar job of keeping your personal opinions out of the debate

This are just catch phrases by oppositional sides anyway aren't they? - to make it sound like things morally are already decided

Stay away from them please!

Thank you

Jun. 29 2009 11:07 AM
Jimmy Q from Staten Island

Between this ruling and the VR Act decision last week, SCOTUS has thankfully moved even more towards upholding the true spirit if the 14th Amendment.

Bravo! Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, Roberts, Bravo!

Jun. 29 2009 11:02 AM
Johnny S from Cranford, NJ

SCOTUS' decision is a great example of judicial activism. This case should be judged on its merits and not as a message about affirmative action.

Jun. 29 2009 10:46 AM
Rob from The Bronx

Why is the supreme court overturning judge Sotomayor lower court decision of any importance to her confirmation. I can't recall the last time there was a unanimous court decision, that means if some of the justices were still on any of the lower courts, that their decisions would have been similarly overturned. And since this decision was 5 to 4 that likely means that four(4) justices agree with her position. Am I missing something here?

Jun. 29 2009 10:44 AM
Caitlin from Jersey City

Will these allegedly racially biased (or, I guess now NOT allegedly racially biased) test questions ever be released to the public? I've heard that some of them were about Lynyrd Skynyrd or similar, but I find that rather hard to believe.

Jun. 29 2009 10:20 AM
Jason from Brooklyn

From The American Prospect:

"The fact that white women have been the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action goes unmentioned because it's harder to make the case that "white people" have been hurt, because in the end, "white people" have benefited more than anyone else."

Jun. 29 2009 10:19 AM

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