A Final Look at the United States Supreme Court’s 2008 Term

04/02/2009 / Bruce J. Douglas and Ashlee M. Bekish

This past October, the United States Supreme Court began its 2008 term. In two previous alerts, we provided a brief look at some of the interesting cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear. Since the Supreme Court continues to accept new cases throughout the term, this alert provides a look at some of the final cases that have been added to the Court’s docket.

Employment Discrimination

Ricci, et al. v. DeStefano, et al. (Docket Nos. 07-1428 and 08-328)

In this consolidated action, the Supreme Court will consider issues concerning application of Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause to the civil service. This case involves promotion exams administered by the City of New Haven, Connecticut fire department to applicants for positions as captain and lieutenant. The examination resulted in disproportionately higher scores for white applicants than for minority applicants. The department, fearing that it would be in violation of Title VII if it used the results, decided not to implement the exam results and left the positions unfilled. The Supreme Court will address whether a government employer can reject the results of a valid civil service exam when it yields unintended racially disproportionate results without violating the Equal Protection Clause, Title VII, or 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(l) (a provision that prohibits adjustment of scores or the use of different cutoff scores based on race). The Court will review a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which found that an otherwise valid promotion exam’s unintended disproportionate racial results allow a government employer to reject successful candidates based on race. Oral argument is scheduled for April 22, 2009.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Forest Grove School District, Petitioner v. T. A. (Docket No. 08-305)

The Supreme Court will determine whether a student who never previously received special education or related services from a district may be eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482, for reimbursement of private school tuition. The Court will review a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which held that such a student is not barred as a matter of law from receiving reimbursement of private school tuition. Oral argument is scheduled for April 28, 2009.

*Ms. Bekish is a law clerk at Larkin Hoffman law firm.