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Federal Court Certifies Class in Race Discrimination Case Against the Secret Service and Congressional Leader Calls for the Agency to Resolve the Case
In a long-running race discrimination case against the United States Secret Service, a federal judge in Washington, DC today ruled that Plaintiffs had presented evidence that the Secret Service engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination in promotions of African Americans that warrants trying the claims of 120 current and former Agents as a class action. In rejecting all of the Secret Service’s arguments against certification of the class in Moore v. Napolitano, the Court reviewed significant statistical evidence and dozens of declarations describing individual experiences of discrimination offered by the Plaintiffs. The Court ruled that the Plaintiffs’ expert—who found statistically significant evidence of race discrimination—offered “relevant” and “reliable” testimony that discrimination has occurred at the Agency that was corroborated by the sworn testimony of over 60 current and former African-American Secret Service Agents. “Our clients are thrilled that the federal court has agreed that their discrimination claims share common issues warranting class certification and that a jury will hear all the evidence of the pattern and practice of race discrimination that harmed the careers of scores of African-American Secret Service Agents,” said Jennifer Klar of Relman, Dane & Colfax.
This important legal ruling comes on the heels of congressional leaders criticizing the Secret Service for failing to resolve this long-running litigation and the underlying systemic problems with race discrimination at the Agency that have persisted for decades. Bennie Thompson, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, recently wrote that he was “troubled that so little progress on diversity has been made” at the Secret Service in recent years. He specifically called out departing Director Mark Sullivan for failing to resolve the Moore case and demanded action by the incoming director, stating:
I would recommend that you encourage your successor to make every effort to bring about an amicable resolution to the Moore v. Napolitano, et al, discrimination case. It is my understanding that the plaintiffs have amassed extensive statistical evidence of race discrimination in the promotion process and presented more than sixty declarations of African-American Special Agents recounting their personal experiences of race discrimination by the Secret Service.
Further, it is my understanding that several sanctions have been imposed by the court upon the Secret Service for failing to produce required documents and other actions that tended to impede the process.
During the course of this case, the court has sanctioned the Secret Service for willful noncompliance with discovery obligations and court orders. It is my understanding that at this point in the process, the Secret Service is precluded from offering any legitimate nondiscriminatory reason to rebut any prima facie case of disparate treatment discriminatory nonpromotion of the named plaintiffs in this case. . . .
It would seem that such a ruling would provide any reasonable defendant with an incentive to conclude this case. The Secret Service’s failure to do so raises serious concerns about the agency’s commitment to resolve its long-standing diversity issues.
Taken together, the discrimination alleged by the plaintiffs in Moore and the Secret Service’s history of noncompliance with discovery obligations and court orders would lead any reasonable person to doubt the sincerity of the Secret Service’s commitment to diversity. I hope you encourage your successor to bring about an amicable and fair resolution to this lawsuit as one necessary step in the long journey to move the Secret Service forward.
“We are hopeful that the new Director of the Secret Service will heed the important advice of Congressman Thompson and the analysis of the federal court in its class certification decision and work with us to reach a resolution of this matter that will ensure that future generations of black agents will not face the same discrimination our clients had to endure,” said Erica Knievel Songer of Hogan Lovells US LLP.
Absent resolution of the action by the Secret Service, the Moore case will be set for trial expeditiously.