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    Office Of The Mayor

    MAYOR JOHN DESTEFANO, JR. STATEMENT ON SUPREME COURT DECISION IN THE RICCI CASE

    (6/29/2009) NEW HAVEN- The following is a statement issued by Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.:

    NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTERS

    • AT THE OUTSET I WOULD LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT OVER THE LAST 5 YEARS THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF DISCUSSION AND DISAGREEMENT REGARDING THE PROMOTIONAL EXAMS FOR FIRE CAPTAIN AND LIEUTENANT.

    • FOR ALL OF THAT, I WISH TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE WORK OF NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTERS WHO HAVE NEVER, NEVER ALLOWED THIS DEBATE TO AFFECT THEIR PERFORMANCE ON THE FIRE GROUND, OR, WITH ONE ANOTHER.

    • THEIR SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE OF NEW HAVEN AND TO THEIR UNITS HAS BEEN, AND REMAINS, EXEMPLARY.

    THE EXAM

    • IN 2004 THE CITY ADMINISTERED CIVIL SERVICE EXAMS FOR THE POSITIONS OF LIEUTENANT AND CAPTAIN. THERE WERE 15 VACANCIES.

    • THE EXAM YIELDED NINETEEN POSSIBLE CANDIDATES FOR PROMOTION - NONE OF WHOM WERE AFRICAN AMERICAN.

    • IN EVALUATING THE TEST RESULTS PRIOR TO SUBMISSION TO THE CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION WHICH MAKES THE DETERMINATION AS TO WHETHER TO CERTIFY THE RESULTS, THE CITY WAS AWARE OF TWO FACTS:

    (i) THE CITY’S EXPERIENCE WITH 40 YEARS OF LITIGATION SURROUNDING FIRE PROMOTIONAL EXAMS. LAWSUITS SUCCESSFULLY BROUGHT ON BEHALF OF AFRICAN AMERICAN AND HISPANIC FIREFIGHTERS CHALLENGING PROMOTIONAL EXAMS IN THE 1970’S, THE 1980’S AND THE 1990’S; AND

    (ii) THE FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 AND 1991.

    THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACTS OF 1964 AND 1991

    • REGARDING THE LAW, THE CITY’S FOCUS WAS ON TITLE VII OF THE ACT. TITLE VII ENSURES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY FOR EVERYONE: REGARDLESS OF RACE, GENDER, ETHNICITY AND RELIGION.

    • FURTHER, TITLE VII PROTECTS AGAINST “NOT ONLY OVERT DISCRIMINATION, BUT ALSO PRACTICES THAT ARE FAIR IN FORM, BUT DISCRIMINATORY IN OPERATION”. I’LL SAY THAT AGAIN - FAIR IN FORM, BUT DISCRIMINATORY IN OPERATION.

    • TO PROTECT AGAINST SUCH PRACTICES THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES HAS LEGISLATED AND THE SUPREME COURT HAS CONSISTENTLY RULED THAT EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES THAT HAVE SUCH A ‘DISPARATE IMPACT’ VIOLATE TITLE VII OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT.

    • THIS HAS BEEN THE STANDARD CREATED AND SUSTAINED BY AN ACT OF CONGRESS; BY 8 OUT OF 8 FEDERAL JUDGES IN 4 DIFFERENT COURTS; BY 38 YEARS OF SETTLED LAW; AND SIGNED OFF BY 2 DIFFERENT REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTS - NIXON WHOSE EEOC PIONEERED THE DISPARATE IMPACT DOCTRINE FOR TITLE VII BEGINNING IN 1970; AND, GEORGE H.W. BUSH WHO SIGNED THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1991.

    TODAY’S DECISION

    • AND THAT WAS THE STANDARD UNTIL TODAY WHEN A NEW SET OF RULES WAS INTRODUCED BY A 5-4 DECISION OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT.

    • THAT SAID, THE SUPREME COURT IS NOT BOUND BY PRECEDENT AND ITS INTERPRETATIONS OF ANTIDISCRIMINATION LAW HAVE FOR SOME TIME BEEN SHOWING INCREASING DISTANCE FROM REASONABLE AND TIME TESTED EFFORTS IN THE PURSUIT OF REMEDYING DISCRIMINATION.

    • AND ALTHOUGH THE CITY AND THE DISTRICT COURT AND THE CIRCUIT COURT THAT UPHELD THE CITY’S ACTION DID NOT HAVE THE ABILITY TO ANTICIPATE THE SUPREME COURTS NEW LEGAL STANDARD - WE CLEARLY HAVE THE OBLIGATION TO FOLLOW IT. AND WE SHALL.

    THE DECISION

    • TODAY THERE IS A NATURAL TENDENCY TO COUNT WINNERS AND LOSERS.

    • AND AT THIS MOMENT I MUST ADMIT THAT I WELL RECALL JUSTICE SOUTER’S COMMENT FROM THE ORAL ARGUMENT THAT THE CITY FOUND ITSELF IN A “DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T SITUATION”.

    • I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT THE FIREFIGHTERS WHO BROUGHT THE LAWSUIT GENUINELY FELT THAT THEY HAD PLAYED BY THE RULES, THAT THEY HAD DONE NOTHING WRONG, AND THAT THEY WERE EGREGIOUSLY WRONGED.

    • I ALSO HAVE NO DOUBT THAT THERE IS ANOTHER GROUP OF FIREFIGHTERS TODAY WHO FEEL THAT THE RULES ARE CONSTANTLY STACKED AGAINST THEM. AND, THAT WHEN THEY FINALLY DO START TO GET AHEAD, THE RULES GET CHANGED.

    • THE FEELINGS OF BOTH GROUPS OF FIREFIGHTERS ARE MIRRORED IN THE HOPES OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WHO SEEK FAIRNESS IN THEIR LIVES.

    CONCLUSION

    • THIS IS AN ISSUE WHERE ADVOCATES FOR BOTH SIDES WILL CONTINUE TO PRESS THEIR VIEW.

    • ON THE COURT ITSELF I WOULD NOTE THAT JUSTICE SCALIA IN HIS CONCURRING OPINION OBSERVED THAT THE COURT IS ONLY POSTPONING THE DAY IN WHICH THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT MUST BE SQUARED WITH THE CONSTITUTION’S GUARANTEE OF EQUAL PROTECTION. IN OTHER WORDS TO CONFRONT THE ISSUE OF THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT.

    • AT THE SAME TIME JUSTICE GINSBERG IN HER DISSENT SAYS THAT THE COURTS ORDER AND OPINION WILL NOT HAVE STAYING POWER.

    • FOR MY PART I WOULD ADD TWO OBSERVATIONS.

    • FIRST, THAT I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT ALL THE OFFICIALS INVOLVED IN THE CITY’S DECISION ACTED IN GOOD FAITH;

    • AND SECOND, THAT WE HAVE MORE WORK TO DO IN THIS COUNTRY TO ENSURE A JUST AND CIVIL SOCIETY THAT LIVES UP TO THE PROMISE OF AMERICA. A PROMISE THAT ALL AMERICANS CAN FEEL AND SEE IS REAL - A PROMISE THAT IN OUR TIME STILL DEMANDS THE PROTECTIONS AFFORDED BY ROBUST CIVIL RIGHTS LAW.

    [END]

    Contact Name: Jessica Mayorga

    Contact Email: jmayorga@newhavenct.net

    Contact Phone: 203-946-7660


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