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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name United States and Taxman v. Piscataway Township EE-NJ-0114
Docket / Court 92-CV-00340 ( D.N.J. )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
The school board of Piscataway, New Jersey needed to eliminate a teaching position. Under New Jersey state law, tenured teachers have to be laid off in reverse order of seniority. The newest tenured teachers, Sharon Taxman and Debra Williams, white and African-American respectively, had started ... read more >
The school board of Piscataway, New Jersey needed to eliminate a teaching position. Under New Jersey state law, tenured teachers have to be laid off in reverse order of seniority. The newest tenured teachers, Sharon Taxman and Debra Williams, white and African-American respectively, had started working at the school on the same day. Williams was the only black teacher in her department, and 50% of the students were minorities. In the interest of maintaining racial diversity, the school board voted to lay off Taxman. Taxman complained to the EEOC, saying that the board had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Title VII gives the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) the authority to enforce Title VII against public employers, after the EEOC processes such charges. In 1992, DOJ filed suit in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, seeking injunctive and compensatory relief. The DOJ alleged that Piscataway's affirmative action plan constituted reverse discrimination, in violation of Title VII. Taxman intervened as a plaintiff as well.

The Board of Education defended by arguing that the affirmative action plan was valid because it served a valuable educational goal. On August 4, 1992, the District Court (Judge Maryanne Trump Barry) denied the defendant's motion to dismiss. 798 F. Supp. 1093 (D.N.J. 1992). On September 10, 1993, the District Court granted the DOJ's motion for partial summary judgment. U.S. v. Board of Educ. of Tp. of Piscataway, 832 F. Supp. 836 (D.N.J.1993). The court held that promoting racial diversity among teachers for the sake of education was an impermissible purpose for an affirmative action plan, and that Title VII does not permit this type of race-conscious plan. The court further concluded that even were the asserted purposes legally sufficient to justify the Board's plan, the plan would be unlawful because it unnecessarily trammels the rights of nonminorities.

Piscataway appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. After the start of the Clinton administration, the Department of Justice (which had filed the suit as a plaintiff) filed a brief switching sides, arguing that the district court had erred and that Piscataway's plan was lawful. The Court of Appeals eventually allowed the U.S. to simply withdraw from the case. On the merits, it agreed with the district court. Piscataway School Board v. Taxman, 91 F.3d 1547 (3d Cir. 1996). The school board sought review in the United States Supreme Court, which granted certiorari; the Supreme Court hearing was scheduled for January 1998, but civil rights groups, fearing that the case could lead to the prohibition of affirmative action, if the Supreme Court agreed with the Third Circuit, provided substantial money for the parties to settle the case out of court. Accordingly, the case was dismissed from the Supreme Court's docket, prior to the argument.

- 11/12/2007

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Elementary/Secondary School
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Race discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e
State law
Plaintiff Description United States and a white school teacher
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1994 - 1994
Case Closing Year 1997
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Written: Mar. 01, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

2:92-cv-00340 (D.N.J.)
EE-NJ-0114-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/17/1997
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
94-5112 (U.S. Court of Appeals)
EE-NJ-0114-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/26/1998
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion of District Court (798 F.Supp. 1093) (D.N.J.)
EE-NJ-0114-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/04/1992
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (832 F.Supp. 836) (D.N.J.)
EE-NJ-0114-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/10/1993
Source: Google Scholar
Court of Appeals Order (1995 WL 704036)
EE-NJ-0114-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/17/1995
Opinion (91 F.3d 1547)
EE-NJ-0114-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/21/1996
Source: Google Scholar
Memorandum Decisions (519 U.S. 1089)
EE-NJ-0114-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 01/21/1997
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Decisions (522 U.S. 1010)
EE-NJ-0114-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/02/1997
Source: Westlaw
Judges Alito, Samuel A. Jr. (Third Circuit, SCOTUS)
Barry, Maryanne Trump (Third Circuit, D.N.J.)
EE-NJ-0114-0003 | EE-NJ-0114-0004 | EE-NJ-0114-9000 | EE-NJ-0114-9001
Becker, Edward Roy (Third Circuit, E.D. Pa.)
Cowen, Robert E. (D.N.J., Third Circuit)
Greenberg, Morton Ira (Third Circuit)
Lewis, Timothy K. (Third Circuit, W.D. Pa.)
Mansmann, Carol Los (Third Circuit, W.D. Pa.)
EE-NJ-0114-0006 | EE-NJ-0114-0007
McKee, Theodore Alexander (Third Circuit)
EE-NJ-0114-0006 | EE-NJ-0114-0007
Nygaard, Richard Lowell (Third Circuit)
Roth, Jane Richards (Third Circuit, D. Del.)
Sarokin, H. Lee (Third Circuit, D.N.J.)
Scirica, Anthony Joseph (Third Circuit, E.D. Pa.)
Sloviter, Dolores Korman (Third Circuit)
EE-NJ-0114-0006 | EE-NJ-0114-0007
Stapleton, Walter King (Third Circuit, D. Del.)
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cassell, Susan C. (New Jersey)
EE-NJ-0114-0003 | EE-NJ-0114-0004 | EE-NJ-0114-9000
Chertoff, Michael (Pennsylvania)
EE-NJ-0114-0003 | EE-NJ-0114-0004
Dulen, Maureen T (District of Columbia)
Fenton, William B. (District of Columbia)
Klausner, Stephen E. (New Jersey)
EE-NJ-0114-0003 | EE-NJ-0114-0004 | EE-NJ-0114-0006 | EE-NJ-0114-9000 | EE-NJ-0114-9001
Schlesinger, Steven H. (District of Columbia)
EE-NJ-0114-0003 | EE-NJ-0114-0004 | EE-NJ-0114-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Rubin, David B (New Jersey)
EE-NJ-0114-0003 | EE-NJ-0114-0004 | EE-NJ-0114-0006 | EE-NJ-0114-9000 | EE-NJ-0114-9001
Other Lawyers None on record

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