Bench Memos

Smiling at ‘Disparate Impact’

As NRO readers know, we’re no fans of the “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement, but this recent victory for some municipal firefighter plaintiffs nonetheless makes us smile.  Not because some of the plaintiffs were white: There’s no reason why whites can’t make disparate-impact claims, and of course there would be serious constitutional problems were civil-rights statutes interpreted otherwise (literally a denial of equal protection of the laws). But what’s funnier is the (affirmed) “finding that Akron’s promotional process adversely impacted African–American Lieutenant candidates and Caucasian Captain candidates.” This just goes to show that everything has a disparate impact on someone. And that, of course, is one of the many reasons why this approach to civil-rights enforcement is ridiculous.

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