Ricci v. DeStefano


In 2009, as the Supreme Court again took up the issue of affirmative action, The Aquinas made it its mission to inform students of the facts of the case. In the April 2009 article “Result of affirmative action case will test progress of U.S. Society”, staff writer Rosemary Shaver gives a brief summary of the case that was currently before the Supreme Court, Ricci v. DeStefano, and then goes on to make predictions about the outcome of the case and what it will mean for American society. 

In Ricci v. DeStefano, Shaver notes, the plaintiffs are firefighters protesting the dismissal of the results of a civil service exam because it unintentionally promoted the white candidates almost exclusively. The plaintiffs cite the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, “as well as a clause in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that disallowed the firing, hiring, or promotion of employees on the basis of skin color. 

The outcome of this case, says Shaver, will be in the hands of a conservative leaning court that has had a recent pattern of favoring similar plaintiffs. If the case is decided as expected, the American people will be placed in an interesting position, according to Shaver. Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, as she notes, the American people have lived with safeguards in place to protect minorities from discrimination. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the firefighters, Shaver claims, then “together the American employee and employer will be entering uncharted territory”. As Shaver says, the result of this will be “impossible to adequately judge”. 

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the firefighters, which helps contextualize another article featured in The Aquinas the following year titled “Supreme Court’s conservative majority making its mark”. In the article, the author, Erwin Chemerinsky, discusses the conservative makeup of the court and the impact it has had on many important issues, including affirmative action. According to Chemerinsky, it is easy to lose sight of the inroads this conservative majority has made, but they are not insignificant. It is, as he says, a “court for conservatives to rejoice over and liberals to bemoan”.