Tidbits from Ricci on the Second Circuit's Disposition:

There is relatively little in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion that directly addresses the handling of this case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. There are, however, some interesting passages from some of the other opinions that suggest disagreement with how the Second Circuit panel resolved the case.

First, Justice Ginsburg's dissent contains an interesting footnote -- Footnote 10 -- suggesting that she and the other dissenters were prepared to vacate and remand the case as recommended by the Obama Administration's amicus brief.

10. The lower courts focused on respondents' "intent" rather than onwhether respondents in fact had good cause to act. See 554 F. Supp. 2d 142, 157 (Conn. 2006). Ordinarily, a remand for fresh consideration would be in order. But the Court has seen fit to preclude further proceedings. I therefore explain why, if final adjudication by this Court is indeed appropriate, New Haven should be the prevailing party.
This would suggest that even the Court's dissenters believed that the Second Circuit did not properly address the issues raised by the New Haven firefighters, even if they would adopt a standard that would make it difficult for the firefighters to prevail.

There's also some interesting language at the close of Justice Alito's concurrence (joined by Justices Thomas and Scalia) that I read as a subtle rebuke to Judge Sotomayor and the Second Circuit panel (which expressed sympathy to the firefighters in its per curiam opinion), as well as a rejection of an "empathy" standard for judicial decision-making.

Petitioners were denied promotions for which they qualified because of the race and ethnicity of the firefighters who achieved the highest scores on the City's exam. The District Court threw out their case on summary judgment, even though that court all but conceded that a jury could find that the City's asserted justification was pretextual. The Court of Appeals then summarily affirmed that decision. The dissent grants that petitioners' situation is "unfortunate" and that they "understandably attract this Court's sympathy." Post, at 1, 39. But "sympathy" is not what petitioners have a right to demand. What they have a right to demand is evenhanded enforcement of the law—of Title VII's prohibition against discrimination based on race. And that is what, until today's decision, has been denied them.