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Commentary :: Human Rights
BTL:Supreme Court Ruling in New Haven Reverse Discrimination Case May Erode Civil Rights Act
11 Jul 2009
BETWEEN THE LINES Syndicated Radio Newsmagazine
Supreme Court Ruling in New Haven Reverse Discrimination Case May Erode Civil Rights Act

Interview with Victor Bolden, corporation counsel for the city of New Haven, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

On June 29, the Supreme Court announced a 5 to 4 decision in the Ricci v. DeStefano case, in which 20 New Haven, Conn., firefighters -- 19 white and one Latino -- sued the city, claiming racial discrimination. The city had declined to certify promotion tests given in 2003 in which no African American and only two Latino firefighters scored high enough to be promoted. The suit was filed in 2004, and since the city had thrown out the tests, no one has been promoted for the past seven years. Although the percentages of whites, blacks and Hispanics in the department at that time did not differ too much from the racial makeup of the city as a whole, whites were somewhat over-represented, and much more so in leadership positions. Eighteen of the department's 21 captains were white.

Decisions in the district and appellate courts supported the city's position that the test results were discriminatory on their face, and certifying them would be a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But the Supreme Court reversed those rulings, stating the city's fear of a lawsuit by black firefighters was not a good enough reason to deny promotions to the firefighters who scored well. Now the case goes back to the district court, where most observers expect the judge to order the city's civil service commission to certify the 2003 exam results.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Victor Bolden, the City of New Haven's corporation counsel, whose job it was to defend the city's handling of the exam results. Bolden explains how it came to be that the city had to give so much weight to a written exam, and what impact this Supreme Court decision could have on future discrimination cases.

For more information and analysis on the case, visit

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"Between The Lines" is a half-hour syndicated radio news magazine that each week features a summary of under-reported news stories and interviews with activists and journalists who offer progressive perspectives on international, national and regional political, economic and social issues. Because "Between The Lines" is independent of all publications, media networks or political parties, we are able to bring a diversity of voices to the airwaves generally ignored or marginalized by the major media. For more information on this week's topics and to check out our text archive listing topics and guests presented in previous programs visit:
"Between the Lines," WPKN 89.5 FM's weekly radio news magazine can be heard Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. ET; Wednesdays at 8 a.m. ET and Saturdays at 2 p.m. ET (Wednesday's show airs at 7:30 a.m. ET during fundraising months of April and October).
For an email subscription of "Between The Lines Weekly Summary" which features a RealAudio link to the week's program for Between The Lines, send an email to btlsummary-subscribe (at)
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Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
©2009 Between The Lines. All Rights Reserved.
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