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United States v. State

March 28, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
FRANK E. TAPPIN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ARKANSAS STATE POLICE DEPARTMENT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Webber Wright United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

For nearly thirty years, the Arkansas State Police Department ("ASPD") has been under federal court supervision by way of a Consent Decree and subsequent Settlement Agreement concerning past discrimination in its employment policies and practices. The question before this Court is whether ASPD has satisfied certain agreed upon obligations such that court supervision may now end. For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that ASPD has indeed satisfied those obligations.

I. Background

On February 1, 1978, the United States filed a complaint against the State of Arkansas and Directors and Commissioners of the ASPD alleging that defendants had engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful employment discrimination against African-Americans and women on the basis of race and sex in violation of federal law. See United States v. State of Arkansas, et al., No. 4:78cv25 SWW. That same day, a Consent Decree was entered between the United States and the State of Arkansas, the purpose and intent of which was "to ensure that [African-Americans] and women are not disadvantaged by the hiring, promotion, assignment and other employment policies and practices of the ASPD" and that harm due to past unlawful discrimination be remedied.

On September 27, 1991, African-American commissioned employees of the ASPD filed a class action complaint against ASPD, among others, alleging that ASPD had engaged in unlawful employment discrimination against them and other African-American Arkansas State troopers in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and other federal laws. See Tappin, et al. v. Arkansas State Police Department, et al., No. 4:91cv627 SWW ("Tappin"). By way of relief, plaintiffs sought, among other things, enforcement of the 1978 Consent Decree in United States v. State of Arkansas, et al., No. 4:78cv25 SWW. The two actions were consolidated and class action status was granted. Subsequently, on October 6, 1995, a proposed Settlement Agreement was approved by the Court in large measure.*fn1 Like the Consent Decree, it was the "purpose and intent of [the] Settlement Agreement to ensure that African-American men and women are not disadvantaged by the selection, hiring, assignment, and promotion policies and practices of the Arkansas State Police Department."

Court supervision of the Consent Decree and Settlement Agreement continued over the ensuing years. In August 2004, the consolidated action was transferred to this Court from the docket of the late Judge Reasoner and this Court held a hearing to resolve pending motions. Following the hearing, this Court, by Order dated August 20, 2004, deferred ruling on a joint motion of the parties to modify the Consent Decree and denied ASPD's motion to terminate the Court's supervision of the Settlement Agreement without prejudice to renew. This Court found that it had continuing jurisdiction over the Settlement Agreement and encouraged the parties to work together toward resolving any outstanding issues and setting a date for its termination. Subsequently, this Court, by Order dated September 21, 2004, granted a joint motion of the parties to modify the Consent Decree and stated that the Consent Decree would remain in effect for two years from the date of the Order.

On August 4, 2006, plaintiffs filed a Motion for Extension of Tappin Settlement Agreement [doc.#188], stating they have analyzed enough information to determine that there have been violations of the Settlement Agreement concerning adverse impact to African-American troopers in the implementation and utilization of polygraph and written entrance exams. ASPD opposed plaintiffs' motion to extend and filed Defendants' Renewed Motion to Terminate the Court's Supervision of the Tappin Settlement Agreement [doc.#189], stating the terms of the Settlement Agreement have been met. Plaintiffs, in turn, filed an Amended Motion for Enforcement of Tappin Settlement Agreement [doc.#190].

Meanwhile, the Consent Decree expired on September 23, 2006, and the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"), by letter dated September 25, 2006, requested that United States v. State of Arkansas, et al., No. 4:78cv25 SWW, be closed on the Court's docket and in the electronic filing system. That request was granted and this case is now proceeding solely pursuant to the Tappin Settlement Agreement.

On November 21, 2006, this Court held a hearing on Defendants' Renewed Motion to Terminate the Court's Supervision of the Tappin Settlement Agreement and plaintiffs' Amended Motion for Enforcement of Tappin Settlement Agreement.*fn2 This Court allowed additional briefing and submission of exhibits following the hearing and the matter is now ripe for determination.

II. Discussion

A. Settlement Agreement

Other than the general prohibition against discrimination in the hiring, promotion, assignment, and implementation of employment policies and practices, ASPD's remaining obligations under the Settlement Agreement are as follows:

Section III (D) Human Relations Courses. The Employer will establish Human Relations courses on race and gender to be presented to all new recruits in schools and presented to all other sworn personnel through in-service training.

Section III (F) Minority Recruitment. The recruiter to be designated (as stated hereinabove [one of the four named plaintiffs promoted to sergeant]) will be trained and provided with the support and assistance customary for a recruiter.

Section I (K) Development and Implementation. [T]he Employer shall...develop and implement non-discriminatory systems for selection and hiring and for promotion.

Section III (E) Hiring/Promotion System. The Employer will develop and implement two non-discriminatory systems--one for selection and hiring of commissioned or certified law enforcement officers (troopers) and the other for promotion to sergeant and lieutenant. Dr. John Veres will be involved in the development and implementation of the systems and will make quarterly reports to the Court and the parties on the progress of the systems...*fn3

The Settlement Agreement contemplated that the Court would retain "continuing jurisdiction of this matter for two years for the sole purpose of enforcing this settlement agreement." Section I (E).

B. Plaintiffs' Contentions

In their amended motion to enforce the Settlement Agreement, plaintiffs state they have been continually analyzing information to determine if the Settlement Agreement objectives have been met and "are asking that the current Settlement Agreement simply not expire at this time, as there are significant questions as to whether or not its objectives have been met." Pl.s' Am. Mot. for Enforcement of Tappin Settlement Agreement at ¶¶ 44, 49 [doc.#190]. Plaintiffs state they have "recently identified adverse impact regarding African-American troopers and the written trooper exam," and that "[s]o long as the recruitment and hiring issues continue to persist, the terms of the Settlement Agreement cannot be considered fulfilled. Additionally, the promotion system is ultimately effected [sic] by deficiencies in the recruitment and hiring areas." Id. at ¶¶ 12, 62. In a later filing, plaintiffs go somewhat further, "contend[ing] that ASP has been in continual breach of the [Settlement Agreement] since 1999 based on numerous failures to implement a non-discriminatory hiring and promotion system, failure to timely enact human relations courses and require all members to attend, and failure to comply with the minority recruiting portion of the [Settlement Agreement]." Pl.s' Am. Status Summary and Exhibits at 3 [doc.#194]. Plaintiffs state that "[t]he [Settlement Agreement] is contractual in nature and the contractual agreement was breached as of 1999." Id. (emphasis in original).*fn4 In their latest pleading, plaintiffs "ask that the monitoring period be extended until such time as there is additional data to evaluate the effectiveness of the hiring and promotion systems, recruiting and human relations course, as well as until the remaining concerns of the Class Members are addressed." Pl.'s Resp. to Def.s' Objections to Pl.s' Am. Status Summary, Exhibits, and Tappin Correspondence at 2 [doc.#203].

Regardless of whether plaintiffs are merely asking that the Settlement Agreement not expire at this time or whether they are contending that ASPD has been in continual breach of the entire Settlement Agreement since 1999, the question for this Court is the same: whether ASPD has satisfied the remaining four obligations of the Settlement Agreement -- establishment of human relations courses, implementation of a minority recruitment plan, implementation of a nondiscriminatory hiring system, and implementation of a ...


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