Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chicago to Pay $30 Million, Hire 111 Black Firefighters

It's a great country, isn't it?  Where else in the world can 111 people be guaranteed a job on the basis of their skin color, and another 6,000 similarly situated people be eligible for $5,000 for not being given a job 16 years ago?  Only in America.  All this beneficence comes in Chicago, courtesy of federal judges, Mayor Rahm Emanuel (President Obama's former chief of staff), and attorney Joshua Karsh (pictured above).

Would-be firefighters who have moved on to other careers or choose to bypass the jobs lottery for other reasons will receive cash awards of at least $5,000 per person. Chicago taxpayers will also be on the hook for $10 million to $20 million in back pension contributions for those who get jobs. That means the total cost could approach $50 million. 
The Chicago Fire Department’s age limit for new hires is 38, but that will not apply to the 111 black firefighters because the discrimination occurred before the cut-off was established. 
“I don’t think we’ll have a problem coming up with 111 who still want the job and are fully qualified to have it,” said Joshua Karsh, another attorney representing the plaintiffs.
“Some of these people are older than 38. But, better than half the department is older than 38.”
When results from the 1995 entrance exam were disappointing for minorities, the city established a cut-off score of 89 and hired randomly from the top 1,800 “well-qualified” candidates. 
In 2005, a federal judge ruled that the city’s decision had the effect of perpetuating the predominantly white status quo, since 78 percent of those ‘“well-qualified’’ candidates were white. 
Currently 19 percent of Chicago’s 5,000 firefighters and paramedics are African-American. The force is 68 percent white and 11 percent Hispanic. 
“By comparison to the Police Department, African-Americans are dramatically under-represented. There will [now] be 111 additional African-Americans. That’s a very good thing,” Karsh said. 
He added, “This is the remedy for violating the law. Hopefully, this will deter the city from ever violating the law in this fashion again.”

Noman isn't clear on why it's a "very good thing" that there will be more people on the force solely on the basis of their skin color (or ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, etc.) regardless of what that might be.  Noman is certain that it's not a very good thing, and might be a very bad thing for people whose buildings burn down, that 111 new firemen may be relatively old for the position.  Neither is Noman sure how the city violated the law.  It administered an exam, set a cutoff score, and chose candidates from above that cutoff score.  78% of the people above that score were white.  So what?

Certainly attorney Karsh is familiar with cutoff scores.  Noman notes from his profile that he earned his B.A. at Yale and his J.D. from Chicago.  Those are elite schools, so he's familiar with the concept of emoluments flowing to those who score highest.  (Incidentally, Attorney Karsh accepts VISA and MasterCard--a Godsend for those considering civil rights class action lawsuits.)

This kind of shakedown is possible because attorney's like Joshua Karsh need only establish a policy's disparate impact on a minority group, not demonstrate any discriminatory intent.  So, if the Chicago Fire Department truthfully argues that it wanted to hire the smartest fire fighters possible, that doesn't matter.  What matters to the law is that the largest pool of smart people were white, thereby diminishing the chances that a not-so-smart non-white will get the job.  That's discrimination on the basis of smarts, and therefore in hiring.

Maybe Noman has been asleep for the past few decades, but has anyone satisfactorily proposed a compelling rationale for enabling enterprising race hucksters in the Bar and on the bench to force these kinds of liabilities on citizens merely because the world doesn't randomly confer outcomes that appease their social consciences?  If so, Noman has missed it.

The article states that costs to the city may escalate to $50 million dollars.  It doesn't mention Attorney Karsh's take from the plunder, but at the standard 30% rate, it looks to be about $15 million.  (Perhaps he represented this amorphous class of inferior test takers on a pro bono basis.)  It looks like a great scam for Rahm Emanuel's cronies, attorneys like Joshua Karsh, and liberal judges who all share in the spoils at Standard Club soirees and fund raisers.  It looks like a really lousy deal for the people of the city of Chicago, however, even the ones who will receive the peanuts doled out to them by the political-legal establishment at the cost of resentment.

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