Court Dismisses Suit by Black New Haven Firefighter Alleging Disparate Impact

Shortly after the historic US Supreme Court Decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, ruled that the City of New Haven had committed reverse discrimination by rejecting the results of the 2003 promotional examinations, Firefighter Michael Briscoe filed suit against New Haven alleging that the results of the 2003 promotional test had a discriminatory impact on him. Briscoe is African-American.

On Wednesday, April 21, 2010, a Senior U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. dismissed Briscoe’s suit.

In a prepared statement New Haven Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden said "Today, the city … achieved another step towards concluding issues relating to the 2003 promotional examinations in the New Haven Department of Fire Service…. 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."

Briscoe’s challenge is different from a post-Ricci challenge filed by seven other African American firefighters from New Haven in that Briscoe alleged the 60-40 ratio of written to oral scores was responsible for him finishing 24th on the list for lieutenant. He finished first on the oral portion of the examination. He alleged the 60-40 scoring resulted in a disparate impact on minorities.

While the court issued its ruling Wednesday, it has not released a written decision explaining Judge Haight’s reasoning. An appeal is expected to follow.

NY Times


About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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