Edwards v. City of Houston

Decision Date10 November 1994
Docket NumberNos. 93-2315,93-2476,L,AFL-CI,s. 93-2315
Citation37 F.3d 1097
PartiesDorothy A. EDWARDS, et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CITY OF HOUSTON, Defendant-Appellee, v. Terry HUGHES, individually and as a Representative of the Houston Airport Police Officers' Association and its Officers and Sergeants of the former Airport Police Force and Houston Police Patrolmen's Union, Intervenors-Plaintiffs, Movant-Appellants, and McLoy Medlock, Richard Humphrey, Willie Fields and Bennie L. Green, Movants-Appellants. Dorothy A. EDWARDS, et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CITY OF HOUSTON, Defendant-Intervenor-Appellee, v. HOUSTON POLICE PATROLMEN'S UNION, ETC., and the individual peace officers identified in appendix A., an affiliate of The International Union of Police Associations,ocal 109, Intervenor-Plaintiff and Movant-Appellant, and McLoy Medlock, Richard Humphrey, Willie Fields and Bennie L. Green, Consolidated-Plaintiffs and Movant-Appellants, and Doug Elder and Mark Clark, individually and as representatives of the general membership of the Houston Police Officers Association and all Class A Police Officers holding the Rank of Police Officer and Sergeant of Police, Movant-Appellants. Fifth Circuit
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Clinard J. Hanby, Essmyer & Hanby, Houston, TX, for Hughes.

Stuart M. Nelkin, Joan M. Lucci-Bain, Houston, TX, for Houston Police.

Jacqueline E. Medlock, Houston, TX, for Medlock, Humphrey, Field and Green.

O.F. Jones, III, Victoria, TX, amicus curiae.

John E. Fisher, Benjamin L. Hall, III, City Atty., Houston, TX for City of Houston.

Richard T. Seymour, Sharon R. Vinick, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Washington, DC, for Dorothy Edwards, et al.

Joan M. Lucci Bain, Houston, TX, for Houston Police Patrolemen Union.

Fred A. Keyes, Jr. Gen. Counsel, Houston Police Officers Assn., Houston, TX, for Elder & Clark and Houston Police Officers Assn.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before REYNALDO G. GARZA, DeMOSS and PARKER, Circuit Judges.

REYNALDO G. GARZA, Circuit Judge:

Organizations representing different members of the Houston Police Department sought to intervene in a consent decree entered into by the City of Houston and a class of black and hispanic police officers. The district court denied intervention in the underlying case and also intervention for purposes of appeal. The organizations appeal the denial of these motions and also claim that the consent decree violates Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

We find that the district court appropriately denied the motions to intervene in the underlying case; accordingly, we DISMISS those appeals. We find, however, that the district court erred in denying the motions to intervene for purposes of appeal. Therefore, we REVERSE the district court in this matter. Finally, we find that the consent decree survives scrutiny under Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, we AFFIRM the district court's approval of the consent decree.

I. BACKGROUND

The original Complaint in this action was filed on August 19, 1992, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.

Secs. 2000e et seq., as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. The plaintiffs in this action filed timely charges of racial discrimination with the EEOC, alleging that the City of Houston's promotional examinations for the ranks of Sergeant and Lieutenant in the Houston Police Department discriminated against African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans between August 29, 1991 and March 26, 1992. 1 Efforts to obtain redress for the Police Department's allegedly discriminatory tests began in 1975 and 1976, when Kelley v. Hofheinz, C.A. No. H-75-1536, and Comeaux v. City of Houston, C.A. No. 76-H-1754, were filed.

Among other claims, the Kelley and Comeaux cases raised the claim that the promotional examinations of the Houston Police Department discriminated against African-American police officers based on their race in violation of Title VII. These challenges to the promotional tests were based upon 1975 and 1976 EEOC charges of racial discrimination in the promotional tests. In 1979, the Comeaux action was consolidated into Kelley. In 1983, there were unsuccessful settlement discussions between the Kelley plaintiffs and the City of Houston.

On April 16, 1992, the City of Houston refused to consent to the intervention in Kelley of the Afro-American Police Officers League, the Houston Police Organization of Spanish Speaking Officers, and a group of African-American and Hispanic-American police officers. On April 17, 1992 the above groups moved for leave to intervene in Kelley, alleging that they had been harmed by racially discriminatory promotional examinations for the ranks of Sergeant and Lieutenant in the Houston Police Department, that the disposition of Kelley could impair their interests, and that in light of the passage of time, their interests were not being represented effectively in Kelley. On the same day, the City of Houston moved to dismiss Kelley for want of prosecution.

A hearing was held on June 15, 1992, on the City of Houston's motion to dismiss Kelley, and on the motion for leave to intervene. The district court dismissed all claims in Kelley for want of prosecution except for test-promotion related claims after January 1, 1982, the district court also denied the application for leave to intervene, ordered the applicants for intervention to file a new lawsuit to be transferred to the same court, directed that the remainder of Kelley be consolidated into the new lawsuit, and ordered that the new plaintiff class consist of blacks and hispanics. This case was timely filed on August 19, 1992, after receipt of Notices of Right to Sue issued by the Attorney General of the U.S. The remnant of the Kelley case was then consolidated into this action.

The plaintiffs in this action alleged that the challenged examinations had the effect of disproportionately excluding African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans from promotion to Sergeant from 1982 to date, and of disproportionately excluding African-Americans from promotion to Lieutenant from 1982 to date. They further alleged that the examinations were not job-related or consistent with business necessity. The plaintiffs sued on their own behalf, on behalf of the African-American and Hispanic-American members of the Police Department who took a Sergeant examination from 1982 to date or who will compete for promotions to Sergeant in the future.

Settlement negotiations began in earnest between the plaintiffs and defendant City of Houston in the fall of 1992. The settlement negotiations resulted in a proposed Consent Decree which was submitted to the district court in final form on January 21, 1993. On February 3, 1993, the district court ordered that notice be given to all current and former Class A Peace Officers of the City of Houston whose rights and interests were affected by the Consent Decree tentatively approved by it on that date. The notice stated that a free copy of the Consent Decree could be Before the fairness hearing was conducted, representatives of the following groups moved to intervene in the main case: Houston Police Patrolmen's Union 2 ("HPPU"); the original named plaintiffs in the Comeaux action (McLoy Medlock, et al.); Houston Police Officers Association 3; Female Police Officers; Asian Police Officers; and Houston Parks Police Officers.

acquired from the Legal Services Division of the Houston Police Department. The notice also stated that March 12, 1993 was the deadline for filing objections, and that a fairness hearing was scheduled for March 24, 1993.

On March 17, 1993, the district court signed an order informing the parties that a hearing on the motions for intervention was scheduled for March 22, 1993. At the hearing, the Houston Airport Police Officers Association 4 made an oral motion to intervene. It later filed a written motion on March 23, 1993. After the hearing, the district court denied all of the motions for intervention, including the Airport Police Officers oral motion.

On March 24, 1993, the district court held the fairness hearing. At the fairness hearing, the applicants for intervention were allowed to: (1) cross-examine witnesses, including the plaintiffs' statistical experts and the Chief of Police; (2) proffer evidence; and (3) raise any objections to the Consent Decree. The district court again denied the motions for intervention, but allowed the applicants for intervention to file motions to intervene for purposes of appeal.

On March 25, 1993, the district court certified the following class:

a. All African-Americans who are employed, or at any time since January 1, 1982 were employed, as Class A peace officers by the Houston Police Department and who took a promotional examination for the rank of Lieutenant or for the rank of Sergeant which was administered at any time from January 1, 1982 to the present, and those who will compete for such promotions in the future; and

b. All Hispanic-Americans who are employed, or at any time since January 1, 1982 were employed, as Class A peace officers by the Houston Police Department and who took a promotional examination for the rank of Sergeant which was administered at any time from January 1, 1982 to the present, and those who will compete for such promotions in the future.

On March 25, 1993, the district court made one modification to the Consent Decree and made the Consent Decree a final judgment. 5 Under the terms of the Consent Decree, African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans who took an examination for Sergeant from January 1, 1982 to date, and who passed at least one examination...

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