Justice Kennedy appears to be the tiebreaking vote on whether New Haven, Conn., discriminated against white firefighters.
The US Supreme Court divided into sharply defined liberal and conservative wings on Wednesday as the high court heard argument in a case involving allegations of reverse discrimination against white firefighters in New Haven, Conn.
As in most highly divisive issues at the high court, the outcome of the case may ultimately depend on the views of Justice Anthony Kennedy. During the 70-minute oral argument Wednesday, Justice Kennedy seemed troubled by the city's decision to throw out all results of a promotion exam only after officials learned that no African-American candidates had scored high enough to be promoted.
"[The city] looked at the results, and it classified the successful and unsuccessful applicants by race," Kennedy told Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler. "And you want us to say this isn't [using] race [to decide]... I have trouble with this argument."
In the past Kennedy has expressed distrust of the use of race as a criterion for government decisions and benefits, but he has also been reluctant to embrace the more robust positions of his conservative colleagues.
The case is significant because it lies at the intersection of two important provisions of antidiscrimination law and could provide further clarity to employers seeking to avoid potential discrimination lawsuits.
Page 1 of 4