• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Sotomayor and the Sordid Business of Race

    The Republican senators questioning Sonia Sotomayor about her decision in the Ricci v. New Haven case have done a fair job detailing the legal issues. But no one has gone into the details of what really happened in that case, or the fact that by ruling as she did, Sotomayor attempted to create a new rule that would have given carte blanche to local governments and other employers to resort to the worst kinds of invidious discrimination for base political reasons.

    The prime instigator of the discriminatory treatment of the New Haven firefighters was John DeStefano, the city’s mayor. He is the stereotypical example of the parochial, patronage-granting local politician. It is precisely because of politicos like him that the Connecticut Supreme Court has consistently mandated strict compliance with state civil service laws, trying to keep local governments free of favoritism and corruption.

    In fact, before the Ricci case became a cause célèbre, DeStefano’s administration had drawn multiple, stern rebukes from state judges for “blatant lawlessness” and for employing “charades” and “subterfuge[s]” to subvert the law. He was accused in multiple suits of repeatedly and intentionally discriminating against whites and manipulating civil service exam results for political gain.

    DeStefano appointed one of his biggest political supporters and vote-getters, local black minister Boise Kimber, as chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, despite the fact that Kimber had no experience whatsoever in firefighting or even municipal management. Kimber is known locally as a “kingmaker” who calls whites racist if they question his actions. He once threatened race riots during the murder trial of a black man arrested for killing a Yale student.

    Kimber stepped down as chairman of the Fire Board only after it became public that he had told firefighters that certain new recruits would not be hired because “they just have too many vowels in their name[s].” However, he remained a board member. DeStefano even testified as a character witness for Kimber when the reverend was prosecuted and convicted for stealing prepaid funeral expenses from an elderly woman and then lying about it under oath.

    Kimber pressured not only the mayor, but the Civil Service Board that had to certify the results of the firefighter’s exam. He engaged in a loud, minutes-long outburst at a CSB meeting, requiring the CSB chairman to shout him down and hold him out of order three times.

    One of Kimber’s political friends and allies, Lieutenant Gary Tinney, also engaged in the same kind of racial demagoguery at the CSB meeting, exclaiming publicly that other firefighters who were there to support certifying the test results were “Klansmen.” This is the same Gary Tinney who accused white firefighters of cheating on their exams, a claim that turned out to be baseless. Yet the city’s chief administrative officer, another mayoral crony, told the CSB about Tinney’s accusation without investigating its veracity.

    Both of New Haven’s fire chiefs, one white and one black, believed the firefighters should be promoted. But the mayor prevented them from making any statements about the matter. Kimber made it clear to DeStefano that he would incur his wrath if the firefighters who scored highest on the civil service exam were promoted.

    DeStefano and other city officials then did everything they could behind closed doors to convince the CSB not to certify the results. But the mayor had already decided to use his executive authority to disregard the test results even if the CSB ultimately voted to certify them. As you might expect, however, given the squalid corruption of New Haven politics, that did not happen.

    The dirty, sordid nature of the outright racial discrimination that occurred in New Haven reads just like the stories of racial discrimination in the South 40 years ago — only the races are reversed. But the very same invidiousness is present, what Chief Justice Roberts calls the “sordid business [of] divvying us up by race.” Sonia Sotomayor has made a point at her hearing of talking about how “thorough” she is about learning the facts of the cases before her. So, taking her at her word, she must have known what was going on in New Haven.

    Technicalities aside, the plain facts remain. President Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, approved outright racial discrimination carried out by a petty local politician who didn’t want to upset a “politically important racial constituency” led by a man forced to resign for making ethnic slurs in the course of advocating discriminatory hiring practices and convicted for perjury and stealing funeral money from the elderly.

    Sotomayor thinks that the facts and the law so clearly favored the City of New Haven that the victims of this discrimination didn’t even deserve a trial — a position soundly rejected by all nine Supreme Court justices who reviewed the case. Sordid indeed.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Sotomayor and the Sordid Business of Race

    1. shirley, nm says:

      Sotomayor does not belong in our supreme court. To reject deserving firemen a promotion is beyond a reasonable persons comprehension unless that person is a total idiot!!

    2. Roger S., MA. says:

      I think she knew enough to know she didn't want to touch it. I've thought for some time now that she's lazy, dodging the tough ones. To bury this was her only chance to be rid of it. Beyond that, I don't believe she cared one way or another.

    3. Spiritof76 says:

      Reverse discrimination has been given cover by the Affirmative Action laws.

      Just the other day, watching Juan Williams explain on Fox News as to why it is OK for the Democrats to go after a white nominee and his family members with a vicious personal attack and why the Republicans must not question Sotomayor about her Puerto Rican involvement. His reasoning was that the history of slavery, segregation and racial prejudice in this country requires the whites to be put on a much higher scale than minorities. In spite of those short comings, who made them right? Whites died fighting in the Civil War so that the 13th,14th and 15th Amendments were passed freeing the slaves and elevating them to citizenhood. According to Juan, that doesn't count.

    4. David E Aldridge, Da says:

      It just as the Senator said," unless she has a meltdown, she will get confirmed", even though she doe not belong on the Supreme Court. She is a racist, and not very smart. She dodged almost every question asked her, " shades of Bill Clinton". Self defense is an abstract definition to her? She hasn't got the brains it takes to pour water out of a boot. But she'll get confirmed because " the annointed one" wants an "empathetic judge"(read liberal) sitting on the SC.

    5. Jill, California says:

      I agree. Sotomayor doesn't belong on the Supreme Court. She doesn't belong in any court. The New Haven firefighters were denied due process under the law both by the district court and the appellate court. Their Fourteenth Amendment rights were stripped away by judges who don't understand our U.S. Constitution. Sotomayor not only failed to uphold the Constitution, she brushed off the plaintiffs with a pathetic one-paragraph dismissal, not even considering the legal issues.

      I was a volunteer firefighter for 28 years before being sidelined by an injury. I'm well aware that I couldn't have become a firefighter were it not for those who fought to get equal rights for women and minorities. There's definitely a place for affirmative action … if done fairly. But there was nothing fair about what the City of New Haven did.

      A lot of effort was put into designing a racially neutral promotional test for the New Fire Department. Thus there was no reason to throw out the test results because not enough minorities scored in the top 20. When the City threw out the test, it discriminated against the minorities too. At least three blacks would have been promoted off that list. Obviously, they were held back too. The City held no other promotional test in the last six years, so everyone else in the department was also denied the opportunity to promote.

      The firefighters who brought this lawsuit are indeed heros. Our legal system is a nightmarish experience that puts plaintiffs through hell just for defending their legal rights. Yet these firefighters kept going … all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And because of their bravery, we'll all benefit nationwide. It's amazing. All they wanted were the promotions they had earned. They never set out to establish precedent. What they did for the country is awesome.

    6. Tom Iowa says:

      AS with her soon to be new boss Obama. Just lie and say what the idiots want to hear. Nevermind that you are purjuring yourself to the nth degree.

      To stupid to actually be there, but smart enough to lie her way into the job. CALL, WRITE, E_MAIL

      your senators and congressmen. Let them know every

      day that if they don't stand up for us they will be the next on the unemployment line.

    7. Lynn B. DeSpain says:

      Hey, this is 21st cebtury America, you are only a Racist if you're White! This new centurey reminds me of Fantsy Land, except Walt Disney never designed anything to hurt and abuse as our President and Congress has, and is doing. This includes appointing racist, sexist, biased people to the Supreme Court of our Naation, who's only duty is to intupret The Constitution and its Ammendments, as if they were written in stone. Now we have a situtation where if it looks like Lenin, talks like Marx, then its probably Obama.

      Hozro

    8. Jack Kime Illinois says:

      Re the comment by Jill of California that there is "definitely a place for affirmative action" "if done fairly." Jill, affirmative action is by definition unfair because it gives a group of people an unfair advantage for some benefit based on race, creed, color, gender, etc. There is no way to square this concept with our Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights and the Amendments (notably the 14th), which makes it clear that we are all equal in the sight of the law. Otherwise,m Jill, I agree with your comments.

    9. anthony panzica says:

      What the Senate did as a shame and a slap in the face of 91% of the people voted not to make Sotomayor a Supreme Court judge because she is a Racist. Why even go through the motions of her nomination. It was set from the word go. Who do our Senatorsthink they are kidding. They are working with Obama to destroy the Unted States of America.

    10. Paul Z., Wisconsin says:

      Did anyone ask Judge Sotomayor her views on Amnesty, especially since she believes herself to be a wise Latino woman, "better" qualified than a white male. If she is in favor of Amnesty, then she should be asked what she intends to do with those that enter the U.S. ILLEGALLY "after",,, yet "another" Amnesty???

    11. Paul Z., Wisconsin says:

      The exact same thing happened to me, my winning test score on a firefighters exam being thrown out because none of the top 10 qualifiers were minorities…..Then we had to retest on a pass/fail exam, pure discrimination……….they lowered the standards and picked anyone they wanted from the list……….

    12. Pingback: “Sordid Business [of] Divvying Us Up By Race” | Democrat = Socialist

    13. Norma, Missouri says:

      One of the firemen involved in this sordid mess stated that the tests were developed to determine who was the most qualified for what the job required. Sounds like a good idea to me, and if half of the ones who passed were black, that would have meant they were qualified. It reminds me of Tennessee State University (a black university) and their nursing program. About 1988, TSU was informed that such a low number of nursing students were passing State Boards Examinations that the State of Tn. was going to remove their Certification. TSU developed a test to "weed out" all students who would not have passed State Boards, and so retaining their Certificaton. Passing State Boards is required for all nurses students to become nurses. What if the nurses who do not pass State Boards started suing or Jessee Jackson started spouting racial discrimination? What is the solution, sarcastically, would be to just let nurses be nurses regardless of their ability? Think about that the next time you are in the hospital……are in a burning house. This has nothing to do with discrimination, only ability.

    14. Marshall Hill MI. says:

      This is who the Great Unifier has chosen!What do we smell Now?

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×