Bench Memos

This Day in Liberal Judicial Activism—January 11

1954—President Eisenhower nominates former California governor Earl Warren to serve as Chief Justice. Warren is already serving as Chief Justice pursuant to a recess appointment by Eisenhower in October 1953. Years later, Eisenhower will call his appointment of Warren “the biggest damned-fool mistake I ever made.” Those familiar with the legacy of Justice William Brennan, also appointed by Eisenhower, might vigorously dispute that proposition. But Eisenhower’s death in 1969 prevented him from fully comparing what he accurately labeled his two biggest mistakes.

2016—When is discrimination on the basis of sex just fine? When it operates against men to produce welcome results. Such is the lesson of the Fourth Circuit’s ruling (in Bauer v. Lynch) against an FBI trainee, Jay J. Bauer, who complained that the FBI discriminated against him on the basis of sex.

Bauer failed the FBI’s physical-fitness test (PFT) when he fell one push-up short of the minimum of 30 required for men. For women, the push-up minimum was only 14 (and the other thresholds were also easier to meet). So Bauer sued on the ground that the differential standards for men and women violated Title VII’s basic ban on discrimination on the basis of sex as well as its specific ban on the use, on the basis of sex, of “different cutoff scores for … employment related tests.” The federal district court granted summary judgment in his favor.

But the Fourth Circuit panel of Obama and Clinton appointees somehow sees things very differently. The Fourth Circuit accepts the Obama administration’s argument that the “PFT’s gender-normed standards actually require the same level of fitness for all Trainees” because “equally fit men and women possess innate physiological differences that lead to different performance outcomes.” Therefore, the PFT standards “do not treat the sexes differently.”

The Left seems to invoke “innate physiological differences” between the sexes only when doing so favors women. The “gender-normed standards,” by their very nature, “treat the sexes differently.” That is their very purpose. Further, they impose a differential “cutoff” on the basis of sex that the text of Title VII specifically forbids.

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