On Wednesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that in a class-action lawsuit, plaintiffs cannot use statistical evidence of an institution’s pattern or practice of discrimination to establish the liability of individual defendants.
Addressing an issue of first impression the court said that in the case the inmates at a maximum security prison in New York had improperly attempted to demonstrate that an alleged systemic policy of discrimination proves that individual defendants were liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The three-judge panel wrote, “Plaintiffs in this case offer no authority for the proposition that a statistics-based evidentiary framework used to determine the liability of an entity under Title VII is appropriate to establish the liability of individual state officials.”
The suit had been initially dismissed by the U.S. District Judge David Larimer in Rochester, but the plaintiffs filed an appeal. According to records, the matter was a consolidated case begun in 1999 by two inmates against officials at the Elmira Correctional Facility. The prisoners Jerry Reynolds and Khalib Gould had accused officials of discriminating against them and other minorities by paying them less than other employed inmates.
The complaint, which was dismissed, had tried to impute intentional discrimination to the defendants by using a statistical framework showing a pattern of discrimination at the prison’s print shop. However the circuit said that the connection could not be established as “the pattern-or-practice framework is ill-suited to establish the liability of individual state officials named as defendants.”
The appeals court observed, “We have never employed the framework in such a manner, and we decline to do so here.” The attorney for the plaintiffs, Guy Talia, did not respond to requests for comments.
The cases are Jerry Reynolds v. Dave Barrett et al and Khalib Gould v. Terry Chamberlain et al, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 10-4208 and 10-4235.