Ricci v. DeStefano Case Brief

Facts of the case

White and Hispanic candidates for promotion in the New Haven, CT fire department sued various city officials in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut when the New Haven Civil Service Board (CSB) failed to certify two exams needed for the plaintiffs’ promotion to Lieutenant and Captain. The CSB did not certify because the results of the test would have promoted a disproportionate number of white candidates in comparison to minority candidates. The plaintiffs argued that their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e, and the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause were violated. The federal district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. It reasoned that the CSB, by refusing to certify the results of the promotional exam, was trying to fulfill its obligations under the rules utilized by the plaintiffs in their argument and therefore was protected in its actions.


The U.S. Supreme Court held that the city improperly discarded the examination to achieve a more desirable racial distribution of promotion-eligible candidates, since there was no strong basis in evidence that the examination was deficient and that discarding the examination was necessary to avoid disparate impact. The threshold showing of statistical disparity in the examination results was insufficient by itself to constitute a strong basis in evidence of unlawful disparate impact, the extensively analyzed examinations were job-related and consistent with business necessity, and there was no strong basis in evidence of an equally valid, less-discriminatory testing alternative.

  • Advocates: Gregory S. Coleman argued the cause for the petitioners Edwin S. Kneedler Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae Christopher J. Meade argued the cause for the respondent
  • Petitioner: Frank Ricci et al.
  • Respondent: John DiStefano et al.
  • DECIDED BY:Roberts Court
  • Location: –
Citation: 557 US _ (2009)
Granted: Jan 9, 2009
Argued: Apr 22, 2009
Decided: Jun 29, 2009
Ricci v. DeStefano Case Brief