UNH Students Go To Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday Apr. 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 New Haven and involves a firefighter promotional exam. In 2003, members supremecourt.jpgof the New Haven Fire Department sat for an oral and written test to be promoted to the ranks of Lieutenant and Captain within the city. Upon completion of the test, the city decided not to certify the list because there were not 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, 19 white firefighters and one Hispanic, now known as the New Haven 20, banded together and filed a reverse discrimination suit with the city. 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 had 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 by 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 government’s 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, D.C. on money secured from the generosity 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 expecting a decision from the United States Supreme Court sometime in June.