Firefighter Michael Briscoe's suit against New Haven was dismissed yesterday by a U.S. District Court judge. The suit claimed that the language in a 2003 promotional exam was biased against Briscoe and other black firefighters, preventing him from becoming a lieutenant. This comes after the reverse discrimination suit the New Haven fire department, Ricci v. DeStefano, where 20 Connecticut firefighters (white and Hispanic) sued the department for throwing out the results of the test because no black firefighters scored high enough.
The Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, in the plaintiffs' favor in Ricci v. DeStefano (Justice Sonia Sotomayor was part of the dissent and was also part of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision to uphold a federal court ruling in favor of the city). The case was sent back for resolution to the Federal District Court in New Haven. However, Briscoe filed his own lawsuit before the court had a second chance to review the case. Briscoe claims he learned he was the top oral scorer out of 77 lieutenant hopefuls, and should have been slated for one of seven promotions. But the oral section is worth only 40% of the grade, and Briscoe did not score high enough on the written section of the exam to make him eligible for promotion.
The District Court judge said he would issue a memo explaining his reasoning for dismissing the suit, but the city's corporation council Victor Bolden said, “The decision confirms what should be a basic principle of law: a municipality should not be held liable for following a ruling of the United States Supreme Court."