The law in the media

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 25, 2010 in Randomness | Subscribe

Even before I decided to go to law school, I enjoyed reading about the latest opinions issued by the Supreme Court. It’s something I still enjoy — particularly now that I have at least a vague understanding of what’s going on ;)

Earlier today I saw this story in the Washington Post about the Court’s opinion yesterday in Lewis v. Chicago, shared on several friends’ Facebook profiles with various commentary relating to then-Judge Sotomayor’s opinion (along with the rest of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals) in Ricci v. DeStefano.  The headline: “Justices say employers may not use discriminatory testing practices”.

It seemed a little strange to me that the Supreme Court would issue a unanimous opinion on job-related testing less than a year after another opinion on job-related testing was decided in a 5-4 split. So I decided to read the opinion for myself…

…and unless I’m misunderstanding the case, it had nothing to do with equal protection / disparate impact issues :beatup:

From my reading of it, the City of Chicago’s test for prospective firefighters was found to have a disparate negative impact on minority applicants. The City conceded the point on appeal. The case at the time it reached the Supreme Court seems to be just a basic civil procedure issue: for statute of limitations purposes, did the minority firefighters’ cause of action accrue (i) when the testing policy was announced, (ii) until the policy was repealed (e.g. as though it were a single-but-ongoing discriminatory act), or (iii) each time the discriminatory results were used?

To the 3Ls and attorneys out there, am I missing something?

If I’m right in my understanding of the case, it’s less of a surprise (to me at least) that the Court issued a unanimous ruling. Deciding a separate cause of action accrued with each use of the results makes sense and doesn’t even seem all that controversial.

Any insight from folks with more legal training is appreciated, just so I know for sure whether or not I’m clueless here1 :) Until then, have a great night y’all! :D

  1. And if I’m not clueless, is the media usually this bad at trying to report on the nature of these Court decisions? []


1 Comment

May 28, 2010 at 12:37 AM

I can’t really speak to the case because I haven’t read it and just know vague outlines, but it wouldn’t surprise me at ALL if it was ultimately only up for a procedural decision. We know they like to avoid the hot-button issues most of the time, and if they stipulated to the discrimination…
I think with the media, they know the facts of the case and so it’s eternally a case about equal protection (or whatever)…there’s not a very sophisticated understanding that there are dozens of smaller issues within the larger case and that the Supreme Court doesn’t just decide the entire thing over again. So…I don’t know if your hunches are right, but they certainly seem plausible to me! :)


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