Case 34: Philadelphia Fire Dept.
(C) Legal Documents / Legal History of Philly Quota Order

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Civil Action: 74-258, also as 74-0258

Plaintiffs: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Club Valiants, Inc. And five individuals.

Defendants: City of Philadelphia and Fire Department Commissioner Joseph Rizzo

Intervening Parties: Fire Officers' Union plus individual firemen.

Common Citation:
     Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al., Plaintiffs
     v.
     Joseph R. Rizzo, et al., Defendants

Court:   U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Judge: Louis C. Bechtle (retired 2001). Nominated to the court by Richard M. Nixon in 1972.

Legal Principles:   disparate impact, racial discrimination, proportional representation, racial quotas

Not Addressed:   strict judicial scrutiny

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Legal Document Summary
Web Posted May 30, 2003

PHILADELPHIA FIRE DEPARTMENT QUOTA RULINGS

Quotas in the Philly FD

          In 1975 the Court issued an Order which struck down the Philadelphia Fire Department's admissions test due to disparate impact upon blacks.  The Order imposed: remedial hiring, or racial quotas; rewriting the admissions tests to make them easier; and adding points to the scores of all minority applicants. [Court Docs 1, 2, 3, 4]

          In 1977 this resulted in the City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Fire Department entering into a Consent Decree.

          In 1984 another Consent Order was issued which imposed an applicant hiring ratio of 12% black until the fire department hired an additional 151 blacks from the next 1,250 hires. [Court Docs 7]

          The 12% quota was summarily extended in 1993, [Court Docs 8] and again in 1999, [Court Docs 10] to last indefinitely until the Court is "satisfied."

          An early intervention by white firefighters and the Fire Officers' Union in 1976 was denied because the city was found to adequately represent their interests. [Court Docs 6]

          The City of Philadelphia and the Fire Department were never found to have discriminated intentionally - the court ruled that the fact that blacks failed the entrance exam in greater numbers than white applicants constituted "disparate impact". The court noted Philadelphia's good faith efforts to remedy the under-hiring of blacks, but noted also that Philadelphia had failed to achieve the required result: hiring the mandated number of black firefighters.  No strict scrutiny analysis was ever applied.   This is the toughest test the Courts can apply to an affirmative action or racial discrimination case.  Under "strict scrutiny analysis" the governmental purpose or state interest in the case must be found to be compelling and the method of achieving the state interest must be narrowly tailored.  This test has not been performed in the Philadelphia Fire Department's case.

          The Court record from 1974 through 1999 have established one thing clearly:  A racial quota has been imposed on the department, and the Court has given no indication that it will ever be lifted.

Disparate Impact: "Disparate Impact", as defined by the this Court, involves "employment practices that are facially neutral in their treatment of different groups but that in fact fall more harshly on one group than another and cannot be justified by business necessity."

          The plaintiffs (a black firefighter organization called "Club Valiants") contend that applicant tests in fact had a grossly disproportionate impact on minorities and that, in the context of historical discrimination by the fire department and the city, they have proven a Prima facie case.

          The City of Philadelphia's population is approximately 45% white and 45% black, yet in the fire dept. all minorities make up only 27%, up from 16% in 1985 (and 8% in 1974); City reports that all fire dept. job categories show minority representation below parity.

          In one of its earliest rulings on the case [Legal Doc 1, 1974] the Court noted that the City of Philadelphia (codefendant with the fire department) overall had a workforce comprised of 42% black which was over 10% higher than the proportion of the black population of the city (33.6%).  However, the fire department had a workforce of only 8% black.


Chronology:

First Entrance exam (June 10, 1972): population 33.6% black, city employment 42% black, fire dept. 8% black, previous 10 years of exams had yielded 7.7% black. 1972 multiple choice exam (Class of 1973) had 20% black takers and produced 843 candidates (50 black, 5.9%). 18.6% blacks passed, 55.4% whites passed. Class of 1973 accepted 60 candidates (1 black).

Memo of Understanding (Nov 16,1973):  The State of Pennsylvania and the black firefighters' organization "Club Valiants" agreed to end then-current exam, and to add 5 blacks to entering Class of 1973. Future entering classes were to have no less than 15-20% black. Final entering class had 62 whites, six black (8.6%).

Complaint (Jan 31, 1974):   The Complaint by the black firefighters' organization "Club Valiants" alleged that there was a pattern and practice of racial discrimination in hiring uniformed firemen by the Philadelphia Fire Dept.

New Entrance Exam (Mar 2,1974):   There were 5,345 takers of this test (48.7% of these were black).  2,314 passed, but only 23% of those passing the test were black.  Whites passed the test at a rate 2.7 times greater than minorities (and at a rate 2.98 times greater than blacks in 1972).

          Blacks clustered at bottom but top 600 had 15.9% black and top 200 had 17% black. Class of 1974 accepted 116 candidates (9.5%) black.

P.I. Hearing & Grant (Jul 26, 1974):  Court finds a prima facie case of discrimination from low percentage of blacks on the dept, breach of motion by not revising test, disparate impact of test and job unrelatedness, and grants a preliminary injunction. Must hire 33% black from current and past eligibility list until a new race-neutral test is developed. The good faith efforts of the city to comply are applauded. [Court Docs 1]

Final order (Jan 7,1975):   Court applauds all good faith efforts of the city; finds as a matter of fact that City does not intentionally discriminate against any firefighters. Adopts all findings of P.I. hearing and sets out quotas for all positions (33% for firefighters, 15% for officers) and retroactive seniority. (There was never a finding of discrimination in the officer ranks.) Any party may apply for modification of any term. [Court Docs 2]

Intervention (Mar 5,1975): Intervention by Fire Officers Union and individual firefighters denied as untimely. The individual firemen moved to intervene on December 30, while the Fire Officers Union moved to intervene on January 6; both filed supplemental motions to intervene and legal memoranda of law on January 23. The court denied intervention as untimely because the motion was made as little as one day before final order and 10 days after injunction pend lite, after all the issues were resolved, one year after filing of complaint and 5 months after hearing on preliminary injunction. There was plenty of publicity and even circulation within the Fire Officers Union of the complaint and nature of relief. [Court Docs 3]

Appeal of denial of intervention (Jan 21, 1976): Denial affirmed. Two consolidated appeals: 1) denial of intervention affirmed because Fire Officers Union was adequately represented by the city and delay was therefore inexcusable; and 2) review on merits of imposed quotas dismissed since not a party of record. Intervention unnecessary presumption of adequate representation when defended by public officials, and rejecting argument that City deceived the union when misrepresenting that it was vigorously defending the lawsuit, when in fact it was not. District Court stated that both sides "advanced their clients' cause with vigor," and that "the rights of all firemen...were adequately and fully protected by the City." [Court Docs 4]

Cert. Denied (Jun 7, 1976):   See [Court Docs 5]

Consent Decree (Dec 27,1977):   Decree approves new entrance exam for non-entry level positions (managerial positions only, not firemen), decreeing extra points to named plaintiffs, and relinquishing control of decree as to those positions.

Renewed Motion for Injunction (Feb 15,1979):  Same plaintiffs sue over non-entry position testing (captain, chiefs etc). Motion denied for failure to show prima facie case from grossly disparate impact due to small sample sizes and lack of evidence of discrimination in the higher ranks. [Court Docs 6]

Consent Order (1984): This Consent Order terminates all litigation with prejudice; approving new entrance exam for firefighters; ending physical agility test; order to hire an additional 151 blacks over next 1,250 hires, or 12%. Order to end after 3 years. [Court Docs 7]

Court Order (Mar 19,1993): 12% hiring quota approved for "all uniformed positions." [Court Docs 8]

Order Extending Consent Decree (Jun 30,1999):  Order extending consent decree until the court is satisfied that all of plaintiff's concerns are addressed, and not allowing decree to terminate by its own terms. [Court Docs 10]


Notes:

          The state of Pennsylvania sued the city of Philadelphia solely for a disparate impact entrance exam, and the Fire Officers Union was not allowed to intervene after it noticed that the city yielded to the imposition of racial quotas. There was never, and has never been, a review on the merits regarding the racial remedies.

          The District Court judge, Louis C. Bechtle, retired from the court in July of 2001. There have been no new legal actions in this case since 1999.

          These court documents and summaries are provided for informational purposes only.

          Source: Court documents.


COURT DOCUMENTS:

[Court Doc 1]

DATE: July 26, 1974

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: (civil action) 74-258

CITE / TITLE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Joseph L. Rizzo et al., Defendants

CONTENTS: Opinion. Judge Becthle's oral opinion and decision regarding the motion for a preliminary injunction in the above cited matter. Plaintiff's motion for an injunction "pendente lite" is denied. A formal written order (not included) is to be issued Mon., 7/29/74.

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[Court Doc 2]

DATE: January 7, 1975

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: 74-258

CITE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo et al., Defendants

CONTENTS:  Judicial Opinion.

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[Court Doc 3]

DATE: March 5, 1975

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: (civil action) 74-258

CITE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al.
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo, Fire Commissioner, et al.

CONTENTS: Memorandum Order (Becthle)

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[Court Doc 4]

DATE: January 21, 1976 filed (Oct. 14, 1975 argued)

COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

NUM: 75-1236, 75-1332

CITE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Club Valiants, Inc., et al
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo, City of Philadelphia, Fire Officers Union, et al, Appelants

CONTENTS: Opinion: Appeal dismissed (3 judge appeals panel)

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[Court Doc 5]

DATE: June 7, 1976

COURT: Supreme Court of the United States

NUM: 75-1516

CITE/TITLE:

Fire Officers Union, et al.,
v.
Pennsylvania et al.

CONTENTS:  Opinion.  Certiorari denied.

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[Court Doc 6]

DATE: Feb. 15, 1979

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: 74-258

CITE / TITLE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Club Valiants, Inc., et al.
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo, et al

CONTENTS: "Memorandum Opinion"

JUDGE: Louis C. Bechtle

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[Court Doc 7]

DATE: July 24, 1984

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: 74-258

CITE / TITLE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al.
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo, et al.

CONTENTS: "Consent Order"

JUDGE: Louis C. Bechtle

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[Court Doc 8]

DATE: Mar. 19, 1993

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: 74-258

CITE / TITLE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al.,
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo, et al.

CONTENTS: "Order"

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[Court Doc 9]

DATE: Aug. 22, 1997 (filed)

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: (civil action) 74-258

CITE / TITLE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo, et al., Defendants

CONTENTS: "Order" (pertaining to "Joint Motion", attached below)

ATTACHED / RELATED:

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: 74-258

CITE / TITLE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo, et al., Defendants

CONTENTS: "Joint Motion for Modification of Consent Order"

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[Court Doc 10]

DATE: June 29, 1999

COURT: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

CASE NUM: 74-0258

CITE / TITLE:

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, et al.,
v.
Joseph R. Rizzo, et al.

CONTENTS: "Memorandum Order"

JUDGE: Louis C. Bechtle

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