Study Finds Federal Courts Hostile to Employment Discrimination Victims
The Supreme Court gets all the press, but the real action is in the lower courts. The Republican business community has made it a priority since the Reagan years to fill the federal courts with business-friendly judges. Many of those judges are hostile to employment cases, and they have come to populate the district and appellate courts. One reason to vote Obama/Biden that receives too little attention is the desperate need to balance the courts with judges who take a less biased view of employment discrimination cases.
The American Constitution Society released a study (pdf) to be published in its official journal, the Harvard Law and Policy Review, which (according to an ACS email) "shows that the federal courts are increasingly hostile to plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases." This is obvious to those of us who follow (with intense frustration) federal employment cases.[More ...]
Many district court judges scrutinize employment discrimination cases with special rigor, looking for any reason to justify dismissing them without a trial. Judges frequently grant summary judgment against employee plaintiffs because, in the judge's view, "no reasonable jury" could possibly think that the mountain of circumstantial evidence the employee has amassed could persuade a jury that discrimination occurred. If the employer didn't say "I'm not promoting you because you're a woman" or "I'm not hiring you because you're black," a significant number of federal judges won't give a discrimination victim his or her day in court. They think juries are too easily fooled, and see themselves as the guardians of reason.
From the ACS email:
The significance of the study's findings will be on display at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on federal courts next Tuesday, at which both Cyrus Mehri and Lilly Ledbetter will testify. Ledbetter was the plaintiff in the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire, whose equal pay claim was turned aside by the high court.
The study was authored by Kevin M. Clermont & Stewart J. Schwab, law professors at Cornell. A slideshow and a video of a panel discussion of the study sponsored by ACS can be found here.
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