On March 26, 1993, the United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a et seq. (the Public Accommodations Act), in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Califonia against TW Services and its subsidiary, Denny's, Inc., which operates Denny's Restaurants, alleging discriminatory treatment of African Americans by Denny's restaurants in California. Specifically, the complaint alleged that Denny's implemented terms and conditions for service of black customers, such as the requirement of prepayment and cover charges, that were not required of white patrons, that African Americans received poorer service, and that they were discouraged from patronizing the restaurant.
The complaint was filed contemporaneously with a consent decree, which was approved by the Court on April 1, 1993. On July 2, 1993, the Court, on its own motion, consolidated the case with Ridgeway v. Denny's Corporation, a class action filed on March 24, 1993, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Both actions alleged violations of the Public Accommodations Act in relation to Denny's treatment of African American customers. The class action also alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200 et seq., California Civil Code §§ 51 et seq. and California Civil Code §§ 1750 et seq.
Following execution of the original decree, numerous complaints of racial discrimination were submitted to the Plaintiff Class and the United States. The United States investigated the complaints and, on May 24, 1994, submitted an amended consent decree to expand the protections to customers and prevent future discrimination. The amended consent decree prohibited Denny's from engaging in discriminatory treatment of African Americans and established procedures for compliance, including a comprehensive non-discrimination training program, as well as provisions for notice, advertising, testing, monitoring and record keeping. It also required the defendants to establish a $28 million settlement fund for the plaintiff class, and appointment of a Special Master. The Amended Consent Decree was given final approval by the Court (Judge James Ware) on July 29, 1994.
After preliminary approval of the Amended Consent Decree, the parties received reports that a number of individuals and organizations in California were charging fees for services related to the preparation and/or filing of claims in the case. The court (Judge Ware) issued several cease and desist orders to counsel concerning processing of potential claimants. Ridgeway v. Flagstar Corporation, Nos. C 93-20202, C 93-20208, 1994 WL 525553 (N.D.Cal. Sept. 22, 1994.), Ridgeway v. Flagstar Corporation, Nos. C 93-20202, C 93-20208, 1994 WL 564571 (N.D.Cal. Oct. 3, 1994)). The court (Judge Ware) also issued orders vacating depositions scheduled by class counsel. Ridgeway v. Flagstar Corporation, Nos. C 93-20202, C 93-20208, 1994 WL 665250 (N.D.Cal. Nov. 3, 1994), Ridgeway v. Flagstar Corporation, Nos. C 93-20202, C 93-20208, 1994 WL 665243 (N.D.Cal. Nov. 8, 1994), and denying requests of non-party lawyers to amend the judgment and get for fees defending motions to compel. Ridgeway v. Flagstar Corporation, Nos. C 93-20202, C 93-20208, 1994 WL 665414 (N.D.Cal. Nov. 8, 1994). The court (Judge Ware) further denied a second motion from the lawyers, vacated a scheduled hearing, and ordered the lawyers to prepare a list of any Denny's claimants who had signed contingency fees with them. Ridgeway v. Flagstar Corporation, Nos. C 93-20202, C 93-20208, 1994 WL 669935 (N.D.Cal. Nov. 18, 1994).
In July and August of 1996 the court issued orders clarifying the confidentiality provisions of the decree and modifying dates for distribution of residual funds. After several years of status reports, the United States submitted a final report on January 16, 2001, recommending early dismissal of the consent decree. On April 4, 2001, the Court (Judge Ware) terminated the consent decree's provisions effective November 11, 2000, and dismissed the case.Denise Lieberman - 12/02/2006