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Case Name M.O.C.H.A. Society, Inc. v. City of Buffalo EE-NY-0266
Docket / Court 1:98-cv-99 ( W.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Case Summary
This class-action lawsuit began on February 10, 1998, when a nonprofit organization called Men of Color Helping All Society, Inc. (MOCHA), along with two other plaintiffs (the President of MOCHA and an individual person), filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of ... read more >
This class-action lawsuit began on February 10, 1998, when a nonprofit organization called Men of Color Helping All Society, Inc. (MOCHA), along with two other plaintiffs (the President of MOCHA and an individual person), filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts as the representatives of African American Firefighters employed by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Fire Department (Defendants). Later on, many individual white firefighters intervened in the lawsuit as plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs brought employment discrimination claims under §§ 1981, 1983, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that the City discriminated against African Americans when it promoted firefighters to the job of Fire Lieutenant based on the scores of a racially biased promotional examination administered on April 6, 2002 (2002 Lieutenant's Exam). The Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought injunctive relief, declaratory judgment, and monetary damages. The case was assigned to Judge John T. Curtin.

The Plaintiffs submitted multiple amended complaints over the course of the lawsuit--they submitted an amended complaint first in May 1998, which the Defendants quickly moved to dismiss. The Plaintiffs then filed a Second Amended Complaint on October 19, 2000, and the Defendants again requested the Court in December 2000 to dismiss the complaint. The Second Amended Complaint was comprised of two parts: (A) the drug-testing policy, and (B) the promotion policies and practices. Further into the case, the Plaintiffs in June 2005 filed a Third Amended Complaint when the parties were in the middle of discovery.

One of the Plaintiffs' first attempts to prohibit the Defendants' practices occurred in July 2001--the Plaintiffs filed an Ex Parte motion for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Judge Curtin granted this motion, but a few days later, he ordered that the TRO be lifted.

On March 16, 2002, Judge Curtin dismissed many of the Plaintiffs' claims. He ordered that the following should be dismissed:
- claim for punitive damages against the City
- claim against individual City defendants sued in their official capacities
- Title VII claims against 2 individual City defendants
- claims against the Fire department as a separate entity
- conspiracy claim under § 1985(3)

However, Judge Curtin denied the motion to dismiss with regard to:
- dismissal of the action for lack of standing
- claims under §§ 1981, 1983, and Title VII
M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo, 199 F.Supp.2d 40 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2002)

On August 26, 2003, the Plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification. The parties were at the same time continuing their efforts to reach a joint confidentiality agreement. Throughout this time, discovery continued, and the parties had various disagreements throughout 2003 and 2004 as to what kind of evidence the parties were obligated to reveal.

Even though discovery had not been completed, on May 11, 2004, MOCHA moved for summary judgment. Essentially, MOCHA asked the court to conclude that the City of Buffalo discriminatorily promoted firefighters to lieutenant based on the Examination for Fire Lieutenant (given on March 14, 1998) because the examination had a disparate impact on African American firefighters and that the City of Buffalo failed to prove the use of the Examination was job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. The Defendants quickly filed a cross-motion requesting denial of Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion so that necessary discovery may be completed.

On February 28, 2005, Judge Curtin ruled in favor of the Defendants. Therefore, the parties had no choice but to continue discovery until April 20, 2007, when Judge Curtin ordered the parties to close discovery. M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo, 2005 WL 589834 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2005).

After discovery ended, the parties filed multiple motions in June 2007. First, MOCHA attempted once again to certify its class; it filed an amended motion for class certification. However, in February 2008, Judge Curtin decided to defer ruling on the class certification request pending the results of a Hearing and Oral Argument (scheduled for June 2008). Second, at the same time as MOCHA's motion, the City of Buffalo moved for partial summary judgment on certain issues including intentional discrimination and punitive damages. Third, MOCHA submitted a cross-motion to the Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment. Ultimately, Judge Curtin denied both parties' requests for dismissal on November 9, 2007.

As the case progressed, Judge Curtin and the parties also encountered some difficulties with a group of litigants in a related case who had vested interests in the outcome of this case. On November 15, 2007, the City of Buffalo filed a motion for preliminary injunction to enjoin white firefighters from further prosecuting or participating as plaintiffs in an action in New York State Supreme Court known as Margerum, et al. v. City of Buffalo, et al. In that case, white firefighters sought reinstatement to their promotional positions on expired civil service eligibility lists. Judge Curtin granted Buffalo's request on December 19, 2007, ruling that the plaintiffs in Margerum must wait until the outcome of the MOCHA case. The reason was that ruling otherwise would curtail the court's ability to fully adjudicate and fashion appropriate remedies in the MOCHA case. M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo, 2007 WL 4555904 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 19, 2007).

The problem with the litigants from Margerum continued, however. After Judge Curtin's decision, the thirteen Plaintiffs in Margerum, et al. v. City of Buffalo sought in February 2008 to intervene as Plaintiffs to appeal the Court's December 2007 ruling. Judge Curtin granted the motion, and the new Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the City from making any further appointments to the promotional positions of Fire Lieutenant or Fire Captain until after this court's December 19, 2007 order expires or, alternatively, until that order is vacated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (USCA). However, on May 7, 2008, Judge Curtin denied this second request. The intervenors appealed this denial, but they ended up quickly withdrawing the appeal.

After the intervenor issue was successfully resolved, the Court held a five-day evidentiary hearing (bench trial) between June and August 2008. On August 20, 2008, Judge Curtin decided to defer ruling on the Plaintiffs' previous motion to certify class.

By early 2009, the case started to solidify in favor of the Defendants. Judge Curtin's March 9, 2009 decision was an important milestone. In this decision, Judge Curtin dismissed the Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint B to the extent it seeks relief under Title VII. Furthermore, Judge Curtin conclusively held that the Lieutenant's Exam was job related for the position and consistent with business necessity. This decision established that the Exam is a valid, nondiscriminatory employment selection procedure as a matter of law. M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo (M.O.C.H.A. I), 98-cv-99C, 2009 WL 604898 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 9, 2009).

That conclusion was crucial for shaping the remainder of the case, and it was instrumental in the Defendant's eventual win. The Defendant carried this momentum throughout 2009--in May 2009, the City of Buffalo again filed a motion for summary judgment for the remaining claim in Complaint B. Judge Curtin's decision from May 10, 2010 granting this motion is a crucial point in this case because it dismissed Complaint B in its entirety. M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo (M.O.C.H.A. II), 98-cv-99C, 2010 WL 1875735 (W.D.N.Y. May 10, 2010); 2010 WL 1930654 (W.D.N.Y. May 12, 2010). The Plaintiffs appealed, but USCA on July 30, 2012, affirmed Judge Curtin's order. M.O.C.H.A. Society, Inc. v. City of Buffalo, 689 F.3d 263 (C.A.2 (N.Y.) 2012.)

Complaint A still remained, but it did not last long because on May 30, 2012, Judge Curtin dismissed all the claims alleged in the Third Amended Complaint A. The Plaintiffs appealed, but similar to the result for Complaint B, USCA on August 9, 2013 affirmed Judge Curtin's order. The case thus ended with a final judgment in favor of all Defendants.

The case closed in 2013.

Lisa Koo - 05/28/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Commerce Power
Defendant-type
Fire
Discrimination-area
Promotion
Testing
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1981
42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Buffalo Fire Department
City of Buffalo
Plaintiff Description A non-profit organization called Men of Color Helping All Society, Inc (MOCHA), its President, and 8 individuals on behalf of themselves and as representatives of African American firefighters employed by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Fire Department. The Plaintiffs claimed that they had been discriminated against by the Defendants' promotional policies.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 1998
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:98-cv-99 (W.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0266-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/11/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion (199 F.Supp.2d 40) (W.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0266-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/16/2002
Opinion (272 F.Supp.2d 217) (W.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0266-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/07/2003
Source: Justia
Order [ECF# 302] (W.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0266-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/13/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 381] (W.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0266-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/20/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Decision and Order [ECF# 432] (W.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0266-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/10/2010
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Decision and Order [ECF# 498] (W.D.N.Y.)
EE-NY-0266-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/30/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion (2nd Cir.) (689 F.3d 263)
EE-NY-0266-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/30/2012
Source: Justia
show all people docs
Judges Curtin, John Thomas (W.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-0001 | EE-NY-0266-0003 | EE-NY-0266-0004 | EE-NY-0266-0005 | EE-NY-0266-0006 | EE-NY-0266-0007 | EE-NY-0266-9000
Kearse, Amalya Lyle (Second Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Coleman, Jennifer A (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Driscoll, Michael C. (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Gill, Thomas S (Maryland) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Jay, David G. (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Sanders, Harvey P (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brown, Joseph S (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Feinstein, Joshua Isaac (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Giroux, E. Joseph (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Jarvis, James Lawrence Jr. (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Johnsen, Jonathan G (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Perry, Adam W (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Putrino, Christopher M (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Risman, Micheal B (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Sammarco, Andrea L (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Schwan, W. James (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Sellers, Kathleen M. (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Other Lawyers Fleming, Andrew P. (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000
Pierrot, Christen Archer (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NY-0266-9000

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