ILNews

No qualified immunity for city in racially motivated promotions

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of the motion of qualified immunity filed by the City of Indianapolis and several officials in a suit filed by three white police officers who claim they were passed over for promotions because of their race.

Lieutenants Joseph Finch, David Hensley, and Peter Mungovan sued the city, the law enforcement Merit Board, and seven city officials alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act because three African-American officers were promoted to captain over them, despite the white officers ranking higher on the then-Indianapolis Police Department’s promotion eligibility list. The city maintained that they were required to promote the African-American officers because of a 1978 decree entered into by IPD and the Department of Justice to rectify an alleged pattern of discriminatory practices adversely affecting African-American officers.

Magistrate Judge Debra McVicker Lynch denied the motion, which the 7th Circuit judges affirmed.

In Joseph Finch, David E. Hensley, and Peter W. Mungovan v. Bart Peterson, individually and in his official capacity, et al. No. 09-2676, the appellate court, just like Magistrate Judge McVicker Lynch, found the 1978 consent decree that the city claimed compelled them to promote the African-American officers actually advocated against the use of race for promotions. Section X, “Job Assignments,” is clear that race should have no place in the promotions process. The promotions section, Section IX, contains language mandating that promotions shall be based on relevant standards and criteria applied without considering race or color.

“More specifically, Section IX(D) mandates that any promotional screening tool ‘may not be used more than one (1) time if it has an adverse effect on blacks and it is not shown to be properly validated in accordance with applicable federal guidelines,’” wrote Judge Diane Sykes. “If the Police Department were permitted to adjust the results of any promotional test, ex post, in order to advantage African-American officers, Subsection IX(D) would be of little use because the results of any offending test could simply be manipulated after the fact in order to produce the desired outcome.”

A footnote states that the three officers have since been retroactively promoted based on a separate consent decree entered into between the police department and the DOJ after the federal department brought a suit against the police department alleging it violated Title VII by making promotions on the basis of race and sex.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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