The underside of the Ricci case

The Supreme Court opinion in Ricci v. DeStefano runs 93 pages including the concurring and dissenting opinions. It is therefore easy to miss the story told in Justice Alito’s concurring opinion that lies behind plaintiffs’ claims. Justice Alito’s concurrence makes out the case that New Haven’s proffered reason for junking the firefighter test was a pretext for the appeasement of New Haven’s Rev. Boise Kimber and “his politically important racial constitutency.”

Michael Barone devotes a superb column to Justice Alito’s concurring opinion in Ricci. Barone notes that the concurrence provides “a riveting lesson in political sociology” demonstrating “how a combination of vote-hungry politicians and local political agitators — you might call them community organizers — worked with the approval of elite legal professionals like [Judge Sonia] Sotomayor to employ racial quotas and preferences in defiance of the words of the Civil Rights Act.”

Enter Boise Kimber. Barone writes:

One of the chief actors was the Rev. Boise Kimber, a supporter of Mayor John DeStefano. The mayor testified for him as a character witness in a 1996 trial in which he was convicted of stealing prepaid funeral expenses from an elderly woman. DeStefano later appointed Kimber the head of the board of fire commissioners, but Kimber resigned after saying he wouldn’t hire certain recruits because “they just have too many vowels in their name.”

After the results of the promotion test were announced, showing that 19 white and one Hispanic firefighter qualified for promotion, Kimber called the mayor’s chief administrative officer opposing certification of the test results.

The record shows that DeStefano and his appointees went to work, holding secret meetings and concealing their motives, to get the Civil Service Board to decertify the test results. Kimber appeared at a board meeting and made “a loud, minutes-long outburst” and had to be ruled out of order three times.

City officials ignored the inconvenient fact that they had hired an independent and experienced firm — this is a thriving business — to draw up a bias-free test and paid a competing firm to draw up another test. Its head testified that the first firm’s test was biased without seeing it. The board capitulated and decertified the test. DeStefano was prepared to overrule it if it had gone the other way.

Barone comments: “Such is governance these days in a liberal university town. It may remind some of us old enough to remember of the machinations and contrivances of Southern white officials and agitators employed to prevent blacks from registering and voting.”

You will want to read the whole thing, but don’t miss Justice Alito’s concurring opinion either.

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