University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Johnson v. Tulsa, Okla. EE-OK-0049
Docket / Court 4:94-CV-00039 ( N.D. Okla. )
State/Territory Oklahoma
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Special Collection Private Employment Class Actions
Case Summary
On September 17, 1997, a group of former and current African-American personnel from the city police department filed suit under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and Title VII,

42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, against the City of Tulsa in the District Court of the Northern District of Oklahoma. The ... read more >
On September 17, 1997, a group of former and current African-American personnel from the city police department filed suit under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and Title VII,

42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq, against the City of Tulsa in the District Court of the Northern District of Oklahoma. The plaintiffs, represented by numerous private counselors, asked the court for injunctive relief alleging that the Tulsa Police Department (TPD) systematically discriminated against African-American employees. Specifically, the plaintiffs contended that the TPD discriminated in its promotions, hiring, training, and retaliatory discharging of employees.

The case began when a single plaintiff filed suit against the City on January 14, 1994. He asked the court for injunctive relief and damages. The Court (Judge Kern) stayed the case in order to facilitate settlement, but an agreement was never reached. On February 14, 1996, the stay was lifted. The plaintiff then motioned for more members to join the case, ultimately resulting in the Court (Judge Holmes) approving a class consisting of all current and future African-American employees of the Tulsa Police Department (TPD). Johnson v. City of Tulsa, 24015151 WL 1 (N.D.O.K. 2003).

According to the Court's opinion from May 12, 2003, the case was effectively stayed for settlement negotiations through the end of 1998, but, when those negotiations failed to result in a settlement, the parties commenced active discovery. From 1998 until 2001, the litigation was hard-fought with several failed settlement attempts, and each of the parties invested countless hours in preparation and incurred millions of dollars in attorney fees and costs. Johnson v. City of Tulsa, 24015151 WL 1 (N.D.O.K. 2003).

Then, on April 1, 2002, a proposed consent decree was filed. Then-Mayor Susan Savage executed the April 2002 Decree on behalf of the City. The incoming mayor, William LaFortune, who took office later that day, had the opportunity to agree to the adoption of the proposed settlement or to reject it at any time on or before noon on Friday, April 5, 2002. After no objections were made, the Court (Judge Holmes) preliminarily approved the settlement. Johnson v. City of Tulsa, 24015151 WL 2 (N.D.O.K. 2003).

On May 2, 2002 the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) moved to intervene in the case. On May 22, 2002, the FOP filed a motion requesting that the Court reject the April 2002 Decree, primarily on the grounds that it violated the FOP's rights as the "exclusive bargaining agent" for all TPD officers. The FOP was the only objector to the April 2002 Decree. Johnson v. City of Tulsa, 24015151 WL 2 (N.D.O.K. 2003).

To complicate matters more, on August 16, 2002, Mayor LaFortune and the City filed a statement withdrawing the City's support for the April 2002 Decree in its current form. Because of the City's withdrawal of support, the Court (Judge Holmes) rejected the decree. Johnson v. City of Tulsa, 24015151 WL 3 (N.D.O.K. 2003).

On December 2, 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit (Judge Hartz, Judge Briscoe, Judge Lucero), handed down an order denying the FOP for a writ of mandamus against the City.

On December 3, 2002, the plaintiffs and the City filed a second consent decree, and acknowledged within it, that the FOP had not agreed to its terms. Johnson v. City of Tulsa, 24015151 WL 4 (N.D.O.K. 2003). On December 10, 2002, the FOP lodged a formal brief objecting to the proposed settlement decree.

On December 13, 2002, the Court (Judge Holmes) ruled that the FOP did not have a right to reject the settlement and force the litigation to trial. The Court justified this decision by saying the FOP did not have the right to intervene before a settlement was reached without first justifying that its rights were impaired. Johnson v. City of Tulsa, 24015151 WL 5 (N.D.O.K. 2003).

On May 12, 2003, the Court (Judge Holmes) approved the decree. The settlement allowed for all individual claims to be addressed by the Court. It gave back pay and front pay to those who were denied promotions and compensatory damages to those who had been wrongfully terminated. It awarded plaintiffs attorney's fees, and held that both parties protect the decree from third parties (i.e. the FOP). Furthermore, the decree set benchmarks that could be met from a statistical and policy promotion standpoint as to ensure the fair practice of non-discrimination with TPD employees. Johnson v. City of Tulsa, 489 F.3d 1095-1096 (N.D.O.K. 2007).

However, the case was far from over. The plaintiffs sent letters of noncompliance to the court several times, as the independent auditor charged with following the decree's provisions failed to do so, and many statistical benchmarks were not met. As such, these all had to be litigated in court in front of the Judge presiding over compliance. Then, there came the issue over whether the plaintiffs lawyers should be reimbursed for their work in enforcing the decree.

On April 20, 2005, the District Court (Judge Kern) granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs motion to award attorney's fees arising from compliance actions. This decision was appealed.

On July 10, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals of the 10th Circuit (Judge Hartz, Judge Ebel, Judge O'Brien) reversed and remanded the District Courts ruling. Thus, the plaintiff's attorneys were paid, and the case had no further proceedings on the docket as of February 22, 2008. The case is technically still open, and will not be closed until the parties move the Court to do so.

Matthew Aibel - 04/03/2008

compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Race discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
42 U.S.C. § 1983
42 U.S.C. § 1981
Defendant(s) City of Tulsa
Plaintiff Description All African- American persons who were or would be sworn personnel of the Tulsa Police Department and all African-American persons who were former personnel of the TPD and whose employment terminated on or after Jan 14, 1992
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2003 - 2008
Filing Year 1994
Case Closing Year 2010
Case Ongoing No
4:94−cv−00039 (N.D. Okla.)
EE-OK-0049-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/08/2010
General Documents
First Amended Class Complaint [ECF# 97]
EE-OK-0049-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/19/1997
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Writ of Mandamus
EE-OK-0049-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/15/2002
Order approving consent decree [ECF# 1026] (2003 WL 24015151) (N.D. Okla.)
EE-OK-0049-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/12/2003
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order of injunctive restraint against Fraternal Order of Police (2003 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 26376) (N.D. Okla.)
EE-OK-0049-0005.pdf | LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/26/2003
Source: LexisNexis
Order and opinion from appeals court awarding attorney's fees (489 F.3d 1089)
EE-OK-0049-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/14/2007
Source: Google Scholar
Judges Briscoe, Mary Beck (Tenth Circuit)
EE-OK-0049-0002 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Cleary, Paul J. (N.D. Okla.)
Cordell, David R. (N.D. Okla.)
Eagan, Claire (FISC, N.D. Okla.)
Ebel, David M. (Tenth Circuit)
EE-OK-0049-0003 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Hartz, Harris L. (Tenth Circuit)
EE-OK-0049-0002 | EE-OK-0049-0003 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Holmes, Sven Erik (N.D. Okla.)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Joyner, Sam A. (N.D. Okla.)
Kern, Terence C. (N.D. Okla.)
Lucero, Carlos F. (Tenth Circuit)
EE-OK-0049-0002 | EE-OK-0049-9000
McCarthy, Frank H. (N.D. Okla.)
O'Brien, Terrence L. (Tenth Circuit)
EE-OK-0049-0003 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Wagner, John L. (N.D. Okla.)
Wolfe, Jeffrey S. (N.D. Okla.)
Monitors/Masters Brown, Martin Allen (Oklahoma)
Gaberino, John A. Jr. (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Barber, Lewis Jr. (Ohio)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Blakemore, Robert Murray (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0003 | EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Bridger-Riley, N. Kay (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Bullock, Louis Werner (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0001 | EE-OK-0049-0003 | EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Bullock, Patricia Whittaker (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0001 | EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Coulter, Jean Walpole (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0001 | EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Gehres, Michele T. (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0001 | EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Ingram, Anthony T. (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Lissau, Michael Joseph (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Marshall, Guinise Marie (Oklahoma)
Mayes, Robert Issac Jr. (Oklahoma)
Miller, James Randall (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Abernathy, Christopher Lee (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Ashe, R. Lawrence Jr. (Georgia)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Bingham, Donald Mitchell (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Carter, Martha Rupp (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Dexter, Deirdre O. (Oklahoma)
Farber, Rebecca D. (Georgia)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Garner, Robert Hughes (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Gevertz, David E. (Georgia)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Gibson, Loren F. (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Hinchee, Ellen Rachel (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Hudson, Jean Ann (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Kaspers, William K. (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Moore, James Robert (Oklahoma)
Phillips, James Edgar (Ohio)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Polan, James Ronald (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Prather, Paul F. (California)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Rafuse, Nancy E. (Georgia)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Robertson, Jason Allen (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Rogers, Douglas L. (Ohio)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Simmons, Larry Vernon (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Vernier, Douglas D. (Oklahoma)
Wohlgemuth, Joel L. (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0003 | EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Wood, Scott Boudinot (Oklahoma)
EE-OK-0049-0004 | EE-OK-0049-0005 | EE-OK-0049-9000
Wycoff, Mary Sue (Oklahoma)
Other Lawyers Connally, Dan Michael (Oklahoma)
Goodwin, James Osby (Oklahoma)

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -