Monday, January 12, 2009

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR TWO IMPORTANT CIVIL RIGHTS CASES

David G. Savage, LA Times - The Supreme Court served notice it may make a far-reaching change in civil rights law this year and knock down a pair of long-standing rules that give special protections to minorities in the workplace and in the voting booth. The justices, after meeting privately, announced they had voted to hear two cases that concern the lingering role of race in American life. The cases could put the court on a collision course with the incoming Obama administration.

One of them arose when a Connecticut city, seeking to maintain diversity in its fire department, scrapped a civil-service test after it became clear the white firefighters had the best scores. This would have meant nearly all the promotions would have gone to whites, not blacks. The white firefighters sued and said they had been victims of "race politics" in the New Haven city government. They urged the justices to rule that the Constitution and federal civil rights law require employers to use a "race neutral selection process.". . .

The second case the high court agreed to hear is a major constitutional challenge to one part of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. That measure is credited with giving blacks in the South the right to vote and a right to their fair share of political power. One provision in the law, known as the "pre-clearance authority," requires most states, cities and other districts in much of the South to obtain advance approval from the Justice Department or a federal judge in Washington before they make changes in their election rules. The rules subject to approval from Washington range widely. They include the locations of polling places or the places where voters can register and the boundaries of election districts for city councils, county boards or state legislatures.

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