Lehman v. Trout

Decision Date27 February 1984
Docket NumberNo. 83-706,83-706
Citation465 U.S. 1056,79 L.Ed.2d 732,104 S.Ct. 1404
PartiesJohn F. LEHMAN, Jr., Secretary of the Navy, et al. v. Yvonne G. TROUT et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The petition for a writ of

certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit with instructions to remand the case to the District Court for findings of fact, based on new evidence if necessary, on the question what evidentiary value respondents' and petitioners' statistical evidence has in light of the Court of Appeals' conclusions of law concerning employment decisions that are not actionable in this case. See Pullman-Standard v. Swint, 456 U.S. 273, 292, 102 S.Ct. 1781, 1792, 72 L.Ed.2d 66 (1982). The overall sufficiency of the evidence should then be considered in light of United States Postal Service Bd. of Govs. v. Aikens, 460 U.S. ----, 103 S.Ct. 1478, 75 L.Ed.2d 403 (1983).

Justice STEVENS, with whom Justice BRENNAN and Justice MARSHALL join dissenting.

This litigation began in 1973. In four consolidated cases a class of female professional employees employed by the Naval Command Support Activity of the Navy Regional Data Automation Center (NAVCOSSACT/NARDAC) alleged that petitioners discriminated against them on the basis of their sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17. After a long trial—the record includes the testimony of 42 witnesses and over 7500 pages of exhibits 1 the District Court found discrimination in both hiring and promotion. The findings were supported by statistical evidence, expert testimony, and nonstatistical evidence covering specific instances of discrimination.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's finding of discrimination in promotion, but held that petitioners were not responsible for the hiring discrimination that had been proved another federal agency 2 had done the discriminatory hiring—and also that petitioners were not liable for discriminatory conduct prior to 1972. Thus, the "employment decisions that are not actionable in this case" are (1) hiring decisions, and (2) pre-1972 discrimination. The order the Court enters today requires that this case be remanded to the District Court for additional findings of fact on the evidentiary value of respondents' statistical evidence in the light of these two conclusions. The Court's decision overlooks the fact that both the District Court and the Court of Appeals have already done exactly what the Court orders.

The Court of Appeals has already considered the impact of both of the District Court's errors on its findings concerning discrimination in promotion, and has squarely held that those findings are adequately supported by the remaining evidence. Thus, with respect to the pre-1972 discrimination, the Court of Appeals stated:

"By grouping nonactionable hiring decisions with those for which NAVCOSSACT/NARDAC could properly be held liable, certain of the plaintiffs' statistical analyses hold the potential for some distortion concerning the adverse impact of the appellants' post-1972 promotion policies. However, it is clear that the plaintiffs did not rely solely on data regarding nonactionable hiring decisions; indeed, there is no doubt whatsoever that those plaintiffs' statistical analyses included a substantial amount of data concerning post-1972 employment decisions affecting class members. For these reasons, we do not believe that 'failure to factor out time-barred discrimination discredited the analyses. Statistics tuned to the proper time period are more probative than statistics not so tuned, but categorical rejection of the latter is not warranted.' Valentino v. United States Postal Service, 674 F.2d [56, 71, n. 26 (D.C.Cir.1982) ]. The approach to statistics adopted by the Supreme Court in Hazelwood [School District v. United States, 433 U.S. 299, 309-10, 97 S.Ct. 2736, 2742-43, 53 L.Ed.2d 768 (1977) ], and International Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. [324, 360, 97 S.Ct. 1843, 1867, 52 L.Ed.2d 396 (1977) ], plainly suggests that statistics including time-barred decisions are 'sufficient to support a prima facie case and shift the burden to the defendant to show that its actions during the relevant period rebut the inference of discrimination raised by the plaintiff's broad summary.' Movement for Opportunity & Equality v. General Motors Corp., 622 F.2d 1235, 1258 (7th Cir.1980).

"Although the appellants did attempt to make such a showing, the trial court found their statistical evidence defective on other grounds. We can find no basis upon which to overturn Judge Greene's findings on this point. Therefore, we agree that the appellants' evidence was incapable of raising a genuine issue concerning the validity of the inference of discrimination raised by the plaintiffs' statistical evidence. As a result, NAVCOSSACT/NARDAC was left with only an unquantified theoretical objection that could not undermine the prima facie case. See II Jt.App. 743-744." Trout v. Lehman, 702 F.2d 1094, 1104 (D.C.Cir.1983) (footnote omitted).

With respect to the fact that the Civil Service Commission, rather than petitioners, was responsible for the hiring discrimination, the Court of Appeals wrote:

"We conclude, therefore, that the District Court erred in holding that the class was entitled to relief for discriminatory initial placements.

"This does not mean, however, that the plaintiffs' statistics could not make out a legally sufficient prima facie case of discrimination in promotions. Because NAVCOSSACT/ NARDAC did not quantify the extent to which the disparity between men and women revealed by the plaintiffs' statistics was attributable to the locked-in effects of nonactionable discrimination, see, e.g., IV JT.App. 1829, the plaintiffs' statistical analyses created a justifiable inference that the defendants had 'failed to promote equitably individuals who were discriminated against at hiring,' or had slowed the progress of women who had initially been properly placed." Id., at 1105 (emphasis in original) (citation omitted).3

Thus, the Court of Appeals carefully considered the effect of the District Court's error, and found that the remaining evidence was nevertheless sufficient to support a finding of discrimination. I take the Court's citation of Pullman Standard v. Swint, 456 U.S. 273, 293, 102 S.Ct. 1781, 1792, 72 L.Ed.2d 66 (1982), to mean that it believes that the Court of Appeals found the facts on these two points, rather than permitting the District Court to do so in the first instance. If that is the basis for the Court's disposition, it is mistaken. The District Court clearly found that even when only post-1972 evidence was considered, respondents had demonstrated the existence of unlawful discrimination both through statistical 4 and nonstatistical 5 evi- dence. Moreover, the District Court found that even if the actions of the Civil Service Commission were nonactionable, the evidence concerning the actions of NARDAC alone still demonstrated the existence of unlawful discrimination.6 Most important, the District Court explicitly noted that respondents' statistics demonstrated that during the post-Act period female employees were paid consistently less than male employees even when the factors used by the Civil Service Commission to make placement decisions were considered.7 This is simply not a case in which a court of appeals has improperly found the facts in the first instance. Thus, we have a finding of fact that has been reviewed and upheld by a Court of Appeals. Our customary practice is to accord such a finding the greatest respect even in cases that have been fully briefed and argued in this Court. See, e.g., Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613, 623, 102 S.Ct. 3272, 3278-79, 73 L.Ed.2d 1012 (1982); Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 193, n. 3, 93 S.Ct. 375, 379, n. 3, 34 L.Ed.2d 401 (1972); Berenyi v. Immigration Director, 385 U.S. 630, 635, 87 S.Ct. 666, 670, 17 L.Ed.2d 656 (1967). To set such a finding aside without even looking at the record, or at any of the evidence on which it is based, strikes me as a gross violation of the procedures that should constrain our work.

Two other observations concerning the Court's action today are appropriate. First, the strong interest in bringing protracted litigation to a conclusion seems to have no impact on this Court. See Pennhurst State School & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. ----, ----, 104 S.Ct. 900, 922, 78 L.Ed.2d ---- (1984) (STEVENS, J., dissenting). The Court's action today encourages the kind of litigating strategy that gives the party with the greater resources a significant advantage unrelated to the merits of the case. The kind of...

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