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Reverse Discrimination Ruling Could Affect Mass. Cases

This article is more than 10 years old.

A Supreme Court ruling Monday supporting the reverse-discrimination claims of a group of mostly white firemen in New Haven, Conn., could have implications for similar cases in Massachusetts.

In a 5-to-4 ruling, the court held that the city of New Haven violated the rights of the firemen by disregarding the results of a promotional test in which they fared better than their minority counterparts.

Boston lawyer Harold Lichten is representing a Boston policeman in a suit against the commonwealth alleging bias in the police sergeants exam.

However, Lichten insisted that rather than weakening his case, the New Haven ruling was based on the determination that the city had devised a study to determine if the promotional test would be discriminatory.

"In the Boston case we're involved in, no such study has been done," Lichten said. "In our opinion this differentiates it substantially."

The case, Lopez vs. the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is now pending in federal district court in Boston.

The state NAACP has also been involved in a number of cases concerning the validity of civil service tests, as municipalities, including Boston, have steadily done away with quota systems for police and fire departments.

This program aired on June 30, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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