The Supreme Court ended its term with a dramatic 5-4 ruling that makes it harder for private and government employers alike to take race into consideration in hiring or promotion decisions in order to avoid being charged with racial discrimination.
The ruling came in a closely watched reverse discrimination suit by white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., filed after the city scrapped the results of a civil service exam because no black firefighters scored high enough to qualify for promotions.
The case had political significance because Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor formed part of the three-judge panel that upheld the city’s action that the Supreme Court on Monday overturned.
Along with a second 5-4 decision in a banking regulation case, the court ended its term with a total of 23 one-vote rulings – nearly one-third of the total of 74 decisions. That is only slightly lower than the record 35 percent of one-vote rulings two years ago, in Chief Justice John G. Roberts’s second term in office. Roberts has said before confirmation and since that he wants to reduce the number of closely divided rulings from the court.