UNH Student Visits Supreme Court Case

The Charger Bulletin

WASHINGTON DC – On Wednesday April 22, 2009, the Supreme Court of the United States heard the oral arguments of Ricci v. DeStefano.

Ricci v. DeStafano is a case based out of the City of New Haven involving a firefighter promotional exam. In 2003, members of the New Haven Fire Department sat for a test to be promoted to the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain within the city. The test involved both an oral and written section. Upon completion of the test, the city decided that not to certify the list because there weren’t enough minorities in the top ranks of the list. The city feared that the test had some level of bias associated with it and by certifying the test the city would face a lawsuit.

Instead, nineteen white firefighters and one Hispanic banded together and filed a reverse discrimination suit with the city. The group has become known as the New Haven 20. The firefighters argue that the test was based on job specific duties and that the company who made the test was willing to vouch for its validity. One of the prime questions they posed to the Supreme Court was whether the city has the ability to not certify a list of an otherwise valid test based only on the racial outcome of the participants.

The case has grabbed a significant amount of national attention when the Obama administration filed a brief siding with the city but asking the court to send the case back to the lower court. During the arguments a representative from the Obama Administration was given the opportunity to present the governments argument to the court.

In attendance at the arguments were two fire science students from the University of New Haven; Louis Eswood and Chris Rinck. They were accompanied by their Fire Law professor, Marty O’Connor, and were able to secure three reserved seats in the courtroom surpassing a two year waiting list. The group traveled to Washington DC on money secured from the genorsity of the Bartel’s Family and the Office of the Dean of the Henry Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences.

The case is expected to be extremely close showing a 5-4 decision. The Supreme Court is expected to release their decision sometime in June.