Judge Tramples on Dreams

Frank, not his real name, was 18 and barely out of high school when he signed up for the U.S. Army. He was shipped to Iraq, where he was nearly killed when a landmine blew up the truck he was riding in.

When Frank returned to the states, he signed-up to take the city’s firefighter exam. He scored a 98 and got extra credit because of his military service. He was at the top of the list and should be a fireman by now. But because of the rulings of a federal judge, his hiring has been delayed for three years. Last week, he gave up and asked that his name be removed from the list.

The city says the intervention of Judge Nicholas Garaufis will cost it more than $120 million over the next two years. The judge has rejected three attempts to revise the firefighter exam. He decided the FDNY exam was an inadequate measuring stick and that the fact that minority candidates scored lower on average on indicated the test was biased.

The judge’s rulings have had repercussions. Hundreds of candidates have remained on waiting lists for years. Meanwhile, the FDNY says it is short 1,200 firefighters. Because of the delay, the department has been forced to rely on costly overtime.

Last week, the judge gave the city five options that would enable the FDNY to hire 300 new firefighters. The city rejected his offer, saying each option hinged on using race-based quotas to select firefighters, which would be illegal.

We are appalled by the judge’s meddling and his fondness for racial quotas. We question what course he took in law school that enables him to second-guess the people who drew up the exams. For that matter, we question what experience qualified Garaufis to become a federal judge.

Before his appointment, he served for nine years as counsel to ex-Borough President Claire Shulman. His qualification for both jobs was party loyalty.

The city has made an effort to attract minorities to the FDNY. There has been marked improvement in the number of minorities taking and passing the exam. Still, blacks and Hispanics remain underrepresented, but there is no proof the department is acting out of bias.

The judge’s reasoning is flawed. Damage has been done to Frank and others of all races and no good has been accomplished.

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