On August 19, 1992, African American and Hispanic members of the Houston Police Department filed a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act against the City of Houston in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The plaintiffs, represented by the City of Houston Legal Department and private counsel, asked the court for injunctive relief, claiming that HPD's testing practices to determine promotions had a disparate impact on minority members of the HPD. Plaintiffs had attempted to intervene in earlier cases (Kelley v. Hofheinz, Dock. No. H-75-1536, and Comeaux v. City of Houston, Dock. No. 76-H-1754) alleging that HPD's promotions examinations were discriminatory, but they had been unsuccessful.
The District Court (Judge Lynn Hughes) approved the parties' consent decree on February 4, 1993. The decree included two stipulated classes, including African American and Hispanic members of the police department. The decree also provided for remedial promotions for members of the classes.
On March 25, 1993, the Court issued Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law regarding Plaintiffs' consent decree. Over some objections by non-parties to the lawsuit, the Court found that the consent decree was appropriate and not prejudicial to non-minorities. Further, the Court found that Plaintiffs had proven their allegations of disparate impact and that the consent decree was narrowly tailored to achieving a compelling government interest.
After the District Court denied would-be plaintiffs' motion to intervene, the would-be plaintiffs appealed. On November 10, 1994, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's denial of the motion to intervene but reversed the District Court's denial of the motion to intervene for purposes of appeal. The Fifth Circuit also affirmed the District Court's approval of the consent decree. Edwards v. City of Houston, 37 F.3d 1097 (5th Cir. 1994). The Fifth Circuit then granted rehearing en banc on March 15, 1995. Edwards v. City of Houston, 49 F.3d 1048 (5th Cir. 1995).
After the rehearing en banc, on April 1, 1996, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the District Court erred when it denied the motion to intervene in the underlying case. The Fifth Circuit remanded the case, stating that the District Court should allow the parties to intervene with the rights of full parties; grant the new parties sufficient time for discovery; and hold another fairness hearing after time for discovery. Edwards v. City of Houston, 78 F.3d 983 (5th Cir. 1996).
The District Court approved the modified consent decree on September 13, 2000. The Final Consent Decree, filed on April 2, 2001, provided for promotions, record-keeping, reporting, and attorneys' fees and costs.
After non-parties alleged that the consent decree constituted reverse discrimination against them, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals again affirmed the District Court's approval of the Consent Decree on August 19, 2002. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. There has been no further substantive action in the case.Haley Waller - 08/30/2010