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Court Strikes Down Plan Calling for More Black Firefighters in Capital

February 28, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court panel Friday struck down an affirmative action plan aimed at increasing the number of black firefighters in the District of Columbia.

The court, by a 2-1 vote, said the 1985 plan represents a form of racial discrimination against whites that violates federal law and the Constitution's equal-protection guarantees.

The court said preferential treatment for black applicants is not needed because blacks have not been discriminated against.

Overturns Court Decree

The decision overturned a federal court consent decree in which the capital city's government agreed that of every 10 people hired by the fire department, at least six would be black.

The plan had been attacked by white firefighters and the Reagan Administration.

"Because the District of Columbia has failed to establish the requisite predicate of discrimination and did not consider, let alone employ, alternatives to its race-preference plan, the hiring provisions cannot stand," Judge Kenneth Starr wrote for the court.

Judge Abner Mikva dissented, accusing the court of "cavalierly" ignoring "a policy of overt racial discrimination" once practiced by the fire department.

Starr noted that 67.5% of those hired by the department in 1982 were black; 80.5% hired in 1983 were black and 78.6% hired in 1984 were black.

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