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Justices Reverse Sotomayor Ruling in Discrimination Case

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision Monday that white firefighters in Connecticut were unfairly denied promotions because of their race, reversing a decision supported by high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor when she was an appellate judge. Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal discusses the case with Gwen Ifill.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major decision today on race and job promotions. The 5-4 split ruling was in favor of white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut. They claimed they were denied promotions based on race.

    The outcome drew sharply different reactions from the city's mayor and the firefighters' attorney.

    KAREN TORRE, attorney, New Haven firefighters: Right now, we're just enjoying the absolute pleasure of having our position vindicated and giving some hope, actually, to all those firefighters, and police, and teachers, and other employees in the civil service who feel that their worth, their education, their skills doesn't matter, and all that matters in this country so far is identity and race politics. And I think today we struck a below against that in favor of truly American ideals.

    JOHN DESTEFANO, mayor, New Haven, Conn.: 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 had been egregiously harmed.

    I also have no doubt that today there is another set of firefighters who feel that the rules are constantly stacked against them and that, when they do finally start to get ahead, that the rules get changed.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Supreme Court decision reversed a finding by a lower court in favor of the city of New Haven. The majority on that court included Judge Sonia Sotomayor, now a Supreme Court nominee.

    A White House spokesman said today that today's reversal should not affect Sotomayor's Senate confirmation.

    Now Gwen Ifill continues our lead story coverage.

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