High Court favors Chicago Black firefighters in discrimination suit

AP100524140264

CHICAGO - The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of 6,000 Black applicants for firefighting jobs here, adding they could proceed with a lawsuit that accuses the city of using a racially discriminatory hiring exam to deny them jobs.

The firefighter exam administered in 1995 had a cut-off score at 64 points and those below it had failed. However the city then told applicants who scored between 64 and 89 points that they too did not qualify.

At the time 26,000 applicants applied for the job and in order to weed out the relatively small number of open positions the city removed anyone who scored under 89 on the written test. Those who scored above 64 but below 89 were told they had passed but would probably not be hired because so many had scored higher than 89. Yet most of the high-scoring applicants were white and only 11 percent were black, thus resulting in the lawsuit alleging discrimination.

The unanimous decision by the high court rejected Chicago's argument that the suit should be dismissed because the case was filed passed the 300-day deadline.

Justice Antonin Scalia said the question was not whether the lawsuit had been filed in a timely manner, but whether the practice at issue can be challenged. He said it could, adding the city's cut-off score for the jobs in question had an adverse impact on qualified black candidates. He sent it back to the lower court in Chicago.

A federal appeals court in Chicago had previously dismissed the case.

Civil rights groups and affirmative action supporters hailed the ruling as a victory for workers rights noting the decision takes into consideration the reality of institutional discrimination policies that limit the balance of equal opportunities for minority applicants.

"Today, the Supreme Court affirmed that job-seekers should not be denied justice based on a technicality," said John Payton, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., in a statement. Payton, who argued the case notes, "This victory goes well beyond the immediate results in Chicago. It should ensure that no other fire department or employer uses a discriminatory test, and LDF will go the extra mile to make sure that they do not."

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said the city has been trying to diversify the fire department but like most cities has been met with legal challenges from both sides. Since 2006 the city has used a "pass-fail" approach, he said.

Yet critics argue more needs to be done to ensure city posts equally represent the population such agencies serve.

The 5,000-member fire department is about 19 percent black and about 10 percent Latino. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, blacks accounted for 37 percent of Chicago's population.

Mara Georges, the city's corporation counsel said the city would hire the would-be firefighters if told to do so by the appeals court.

The city estimates damages and pension obligations in the suit could be as high as $45 million. However earlier this year, a lawyer for the Black applicants estimated the total damages in the case could reach $100 million.

Nationwide, about 20 million employees work for city and state governments and in many of these agencies, tests are used to hire and promote employees. Such exams have led to years of litigation on whether they are fair or discriminatory.

In a landmark case last year, the Supreme Court said in a 5-4 decision that New Haven, Conn., violated white firefighters' civil rights, throwing out an exam in which no African Americans scored high enough to be promoted to lieutenant or captain.

Critics of the New Haven ruling say it goes against the historic fact that Blacks, Latinos and other minorities entering the workforce face racial disparities and equal opportunities including fair wages, access to promotions or gender-based inequalities.

In 2001 a group of white firefighters in Chicago lost a Supreme Court appeal that challenged an affirmative action plan to promote minorities in the fire department. In the 1970s, the federal government sued the city, alleging the department discriminated against Latinos and Blacks.

Meanwhile when Chicago fire department engineer Gregory Boggs heard the news about the recent ruling he said it brought a smile to his face. Boggs is also the president of the African American Firefighter's & Paramedic's League of Chicago.

"I was very excited," he told the Chicago Tribune. "It's been a hard fight. Fifteen years is a long time."

Photo: Anthony Sturdivant, 47, of Chicago, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit over the discriminatory hiring exam from 1995. (E. Jason Wambsgans/AP/Chicago Tribune)

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  • TO: THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
    &
    THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

    FROM: MR. LONNIE ROBINSON
    30 MAY 2012

    GOD’S WILL
    THIS IS ‘WHAT AND WHY’—I’VE BEEN FIGHTING FOR, FOR THE LAST 3 YEARS! IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THE AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION MANDATE ALL LAW SCHOOLS WHO RECEIVE FULL-ACCREDITATION FROM THE ABA—TO IMPLEMENT AND OFFER THIS PROGRAM, “WITHOUT ADDING ANY ADDITIONAL DISCRIMINATORY CONDITIONS, SUCH AS CUTOFF SCORES, ETC., TO BE ADMITTED INTO SUCH A PROGRAM.”

    PHOENIX SCHOOL OF LAW
    AAMPLE PROGRAM
    WELCOME:
    At Phoenix School of Law, we believe dreams are meant to be realized...that dedicated individuals deserve a chance...that success is limited only by the height of your aspirations.
    The Alternative Admission Model Program for Legal Education (AAMPLE® ), formerly known as the Summer Conditional Program (CONDO), offers determined individuals -- whose outright admission to law school is questionable based on traditional applicant criteria -- the opportunity to earn a place in the classroom. This performance-based admissions program rewards students who demonstrate the desire, commitment and level of achievement necessary to manage the rigors of law school.
    The program consists of two law school courses, Introduction to the 4th Amendment and Negotiable Instruments. These were selected from our regular law school curriculum and modified to provide “the most accurate indication of a student's potential for law school success.” The courses are taught by professors from our full-time faculty.
    While success in this program earns you admission to Phoenix School of Law as a degree candidate, the American Bar Association does not allow the school to count the grades earned in AAMPLE ® courses in your law school grade point average or count AAMPLE ® participation towards the 90 credits required for graduation. Your acceptance into the first year class is also subject to our receipt of official transcripts from all previously attended undergraduate and graduate institutions. Official transcripts must be sent directly from the institutions to our Admissions Department. The official transcripts are required in addition to the copies sent to us with LSDAS reports.
    Success in this rigorous program is by no means guaranteed, and there is no fixed percentage of students who successfully complete the program. We believe that everyone we accept into AAMPLE ® has the potential to succeed if she/he has the determination to do so, can act on it and devotes full attention to this program. There are no quotas involving admission; there are NO MAXIMUM numbers who can join Phoenix School of Law’s entering class. Everyone admitted to AAMPLE ® has the opportunity to succeed.
    All AAMPLE ® results are final and non-appealable. Neither the professors nor the school's administration can or will change grades once they are posted. The only exception is for clerical errors, such as the wrong grade being accidentally written on the grade sheet. The faculty and administration will not grant any petition for admission, for any reason, until the two year time limit has expired.
    Gods Law:
    God created all men equal and therefore all men shall have equal access to an education—even legal. To comply with this we must include the poorest of men to the richest of men—only then would we have included all men… make sense?
    In the United States of America we divide our citizens into classes: upper-class, middleclass and underclass/poor! Among each class you will find representatives of all of Gods Children: Whites, Blacks, Latinos, Females, Gays, Handicapped, etc.
    Unfortunately—rarely would you find Poor Blacks—in our nation’s law schools? And this is the case for all of God’s poor people. As such, there will never be social justice for the poor, until our representatives are admitted into law school? Make sense?
    The Law School Admission Council:
    Their statistics of students who take the Law School Admission Test reveals that African Americans always (immediately after our “full-civil rights and Brown v board of education” were awarded to us???) score at the bottom of the cutoff scores of our nation’s law school? This means that our application for admission will not be forwarded to the admission committee for review? The LSAC states (on their website under diversity) that there are three tiers that rank test scores and that *Whites score at the top, *Minorities score next and *African Americans score at the bottom. The LSAC states that the reason for this is because we are lazy and therefore have more anxiety than anyone else who takes the LSAT exam. I say Bullshit!
    First: Upper-class blacks and upper-class minorities score just as well as, upper-class whites. This is why you see upper-class blacks and upper-class minorities in law school—but not lower-class/poor blacks or other lower-class/poor minorities?
    The LSAC designed the exam and tweak-it occasionally to discriminate against the poor. It took me, a poor black man, with “God’s guidance”—to easily see that they were simply taking advantage of the fact that “poor blacks” receives an inferior education through the public school system—compared to the upper-class. They use ‘very expensive words’ and strategically place them at a juncture of the argument—that requires you to know the definition of the words to get to the right answer choice; and they lead you to go right and if you do not know the definition to the word, you will continue to go right—and you will find a highly attractive (incorrect) answer choice, just sitting there waiting on you to select it!
    Also “they use subjects which seem ‘completely foreign’ to poor blacks”—you will never see these subjects in law books? I equated the LSAT to an exam which is written in *70% English and *30 % Spanish; and the upper-class are the only ones taking the exam—who understand both English and Spanish?
    The LSAC reports that there are also “three tiers that rank the scores under the cutoff scores.” Among the African Americans you will find that the Middleclass blacks score an average of 148-151, under-class blacks score below them, and poor-blacks score 130-140—the very bottom.
    How come—the LSAC did not ask me or any poor blacks—what type of problems are there, that we are glaringly/obviously experiencing??? Huh? Because they know—exactly what type of problems that we are experiencing. Make sense? If you were “a new CEO of a major corporation” and one of your commodities—was not selling, not moving—would you address this? Would you find out why? Wouldn’t you make adjustments which would increase the sale of this commodity? Huh?
    The Secret:
    Go to the LSAC and demand to see “the statistical research data which reveal the scores of African Americans” and identify which class of blacks that are consistently scoring under the cutoff scores. Before you go—look at the student body of our nation’s law schools and see which classes of blacks are among the student body???
    True Diversity
    Law Schools love to boast on their webpage of how they have a diverse student-body! They have Whites, Blacks, Latinos, Females, Gays, Handicapped, etc. But do they have—True Diversity? In the United States of America—we divide our citizens into classes: Upper-class, middleclass and underclass/poor. Are our law schools in compliance with God’s Law?
    The United States Department of Education cannot give poor people tax dollars, freely (grants) to law schools which discriminate against us. Therefore I ask that the American Bar Association and the United States Department of Education collaborate to force law schools to model themselves after Phoenix School of law. I applied to St. Thomas Law School and Nova Southeastern Law School here in Dade and Broward County Florida and was “denied entry into their AMMPLE program” because they have a discriminatory criterion/attachment which requires you to have a 148-150 LSAT score before you can be admitted into ‘their program.’ They are opening the door to the middleclass blacks but not the lower-class blacks, and it is reflected among their black student population?
    Justice Scalia:
    The champion of the 14th Amendment, in his opinion, stated that the blacks who scored above the cutoff scores (a passing score) but was not admitted into a law school which use the discriminatory Standardized Test (LSAT exam and attaching policies such as cutoff scores and the reliance on high scores) to be admitted into their law schools:—that if this school has a disparity of blacks among its student body:—“then this law school is guilty of Institutional Discrimination” against Blacks and “is eligible to be slapped by the NAACP, the Civil liberties union or any civil rights attorney—with a class action law suit!
    Check it out:
    (1). High Court favors Chicago Black firefighters in institutional discrimination-suit. Scalia!
    http://peoplesworld.org/high-court-favors-chicago-black-firefighters-in-discrimination-suit/
    (2). “Rejuvenating Affirmative Action in Education! Mr. Arne Duncan’s speech
    http://www2.ed.gov/news/speeches/2010/03/03082010.html
    Respectfully Submitted in the name of Jesus
    Lonnie Elliott Robinson
    My works is done—do your part; do the Lords Work!
    God works through People? He does not come to your office in the person?

    Posted by Lonnie Robinson, 06/01/2012 12:14pm (3 years ago)

  • I, also took the 1995 CFD test. I was 19 yrs.old, and couldnt wait to be a CFF. However, I got noticed I passed the test via postcard, and that was the last i've heard ftom CFD. Thank GOD for anothet chance...

    Posted by Jerry D. Edwards III, 08/23/2011 11:36pm (3 years ago)

  • I Lawrence O.Harris,happen to be a firemen during the desert storm era for the United States Navy. I got an 84 on the test, however my 10 point military preference was not included. I seperated with an Honorable Discharge needless to say i did'nt get the chance to be that role model for my son and daughters.

    Is it possible that i might get a second chance?



    Lawrence O.H arris

    Posted by Lawrence O. Harris, 03/24/2011 2:53pm (4 years ago)

  • Frank, the real racist are the people who do not demand quality and abilities in people and who make excuses for their failures and push them on up the ladder of merit when they do not deserve. Affirmative action, that dismisses meritorious behavior, and ability affirms nothing. If you want Blacks of quality, look to Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams or Clarance Thomas. They are intellectual giants (especially Sowell) and they would not have failed the tests. I guess you did not see the irony in my math satire...you also failed the test.

    Posted by Bill, 06/30/2010 12:08pm (4 years ago)

  • I am German American, too, Bill. And one thing I was taught when I was a kid is that racism is an illness. You are sick, Bill.

    Posted by Frank, 06/30/2010 11:43am (4 years ago)

  • I wish that Black people did not have to take the tests. Just give them the positions and the promotions whether they can read, write, think abstractly or even come close to getting a 64 on the test. This way we would not have to listen to the bitching and moaning and the wailing and gnashing of teeth for years about how only white people have the smarts to pass the test and the continual dredging up of slavery, the slave ships and how they were taken from their lovely homeland to Amerikkka. I too have been discriminated against. When I was in college, I studied math. I took Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra and Topology. I made a simple slip of the pen when concluding the problem concerning the Jacobean of the Transformation which mapped the conversion of rectilinear space to curvilinear space. Obviously, I was denied my A+ because I am German-American and my professor was not; jealousy? Just give them what they want. Who cares? Then, when a child passes a Black firefighter he can say to his mother, "Look mommy. There is a man who can't pass a test to save his life." Good luck to all of you who can read this.

    Posted by Bill, 06/30/2010 8:41am (4 years ago)

  • Trying to get more info on the exam I took the exam and scored between the 64 and 89 percent

    Posted by Otis Gilbert, 06/17/2010 10:30pm (5 years ago)

  • This story is the most ridiculous racially charged issue that should have many people upset and more talking about this issue. How can they say that this test was discriminatory. Did not all people of all genders and race take the same test? And were not other races including caucasian races turned away because they did not pass the test? Why then are African americans complaining about this? Do they want the test "dumbed" down so more people can pass? Do you really want an unintelligent firefighter trying to save your life? The reports say that ANYONE who scored lower than an 89 was rejected, not just black people. Should the caucasian people band together and bring the case to court to have a chance at becoming a chicago firefighter? WOW maybe they should also look into the nursing boards and the test for med schools so more people can pass it and become the next generation of dumb doctors and nurses. Do you follow what I am saying here? This is not a matter of excluding a certain race from fighting fires, it was a matter of who could pass the test. The SAME test was administered to EVERYONE. What is discriminatory about that? This is not a victory for the African American race, it should be very shameful for them. To put it simply, a lower proportion of blacks passed the test and therefore based on their test score, not the color of their skin they were rejected. How long is the race card going to continue to be played in this country?

    Posted by wendy Speed, 05/26/2010 10:33pm (5 years ago)

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