Sept. 15, 2014 | Volume XXII, Issue 5

UF Law Spring Lecture examines outcome of reverse discrimination case

Published: February 15th, 2010

Category: Events, Feature, News

Exploring the decision and opinions of a controversial U.S. Supreme Court case involving reverse discrimination will be the focus of the University of Florida Levin College of Law’s Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations Spring Lecture. On Wednesday, March 31, at 11:45 a.m., Robert S. Chang, professor of law and founding director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law, will examine Ricci v. DeStefano. The free lecture, titled “Ricci, Race and Equal Protection,” is open to the public and will be held in UF Law’s new Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center room 100. A reception in the faculty dining room (Bruton-Geer Hall, room 153) immediately follows the lecture.

According to court documents, Ricci v. DeStefano presented recurring issues regarding proper application of Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause to the civil service. The petitioners were 17 white and one Hispanic New Haven firefighters and lieutenants who qualified for promotion to command positions pursuant to job related examinations and merit selection rules mandated by local law. Citing the race of the successful candidates and Title VII’s “disparate impact” provision, city officials refused to promote the petitioners. In his lecture, Chang will explore the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of the petitioners and a tension that exists between the opinions, with regard to the appropriate temporal framework to consider in evaluating the actions of the City of New Haven.

“During my presentation, I will argue that Justice Kennedy’s opinion and Justice Alito’s concurring opinion share a narrow temporal framework that considers only the immediate interests of disappointed firefighters,” Chang said. “Justice Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion identifies the importance of context and discusses the decades-long struggle to address discrimination within the New Haven Fire Department. I will demonstrate that the way the court sets up the conflict between disparate impact and disparate treatment in the Title VII context and how Justice Kennedy’s resolution of this tension is ultimately unsatisfactory.”

Robert S. Chang joined the Seattle University School of Law from Loyola Law School, where he was professor of law and J. Rex Dibble Fellow. Most recently, he served as the Sturm Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. In 2009, Chang was the recipient of the Clyde Ferguson Award given by the Minority Groups Section of the Association of American Law Schools. He began his teaching career in 1992 as a legal writing instructor at the University of Puget Sound School of Law. A graduate of Princeton and Duke Universities, he writes primarily in the area of race and interethnic relations.

“I’m honored to be delivering the spring lecture for the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations,” Chang said. “I was among a group of scholars who spoke at the center’s inaugural conference in 1998. I’ve watched the center grow and develop under the leadership of Professor Russell Brown. In addition to the opportunity to present my ideas, I’m looking forward to talking with the leadership at the center about how we might develop a partnership with the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law.”

Past speakers in the series of Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations Spring Lectures include Paul Butler, George Washington University School of Law, Paul Finkelman, University of Tulsa College of Law, Shelia Foster, Fordham University School of Law, Ian Handy Lopez, UC Berkley School of Law, the Hon. Judge Stephan P. Mickle, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, and Sherrilyn Ifill, University of Maryland School of Law.

The Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations is committed to de-stigmatizing race in America. With the objective of fostering communities of dialogue, the center embraces historically and empirically based thinking, talking, teaching and writing on race. To this end, the center creates and supports programs designed to enhance race-related curriculum development for faculty, staff and students in collegiate and professional schools. Of the five U.S. law schools with race centers, the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations is uniquely focused on curriculum development.

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