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Case Name Sims v. Montgomery County EE-AL-0092
Docket / Court C.A. No. 3708-N ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Case Summary
This litigation involves two class-action lawsuits: Sims v. Montgomery County, a class of African American employees suing Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department for racially discriminatory employment practices, and Williams v. Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, a class of ... read more >
This litigation involves two class-action lawsuits: Sims v. Montgomery County, a class of African American employees suing Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department for racially discriminatory employment practices, and Williams v. Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, a class of female employments suing the department for sex discrimination. Williams was filed ten years after Sims.

On June 26, 1972, two African American employees filed a lawsuit on behalf of a class of black county employees against the Montgomery County Commission and various county officials in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. The plaintiffs claimed that they were denied employment as probate clerks in the Montgomery County probate office on the basis of their race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief from the Commission’s racially discriminatory employment practices.

A year later, on March 22, 1973, Judge Myron H. Thompson entered a consent decree requiring that all hiring and personnel practices and programs and procedures must be conducted on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin. The 1973 decree also set forth systematic and specific procedures to govern recruitment, hiring, promotions, and job classifications. The court retained jurisdiction for purpose of modifying the order as well as the terms of the plan.

Almost ten years later, on April 22, 1981, the court allowed five African American women to intervene as plaintiffs in order to seek relief for racial discrimination claims. On July 1, 1982, Judge Thompson held that four of the plaintiffs were denied employment on the basis of their race and they were entitled to an award of back pay and instatement in the positions sought. Sims, 544 F.Supp. 420.

Then, in 1982, a class of female employees and applicants for employment charged the department with sex discrimination. On September 12, 1983, the court certified a plaintiff class of “all past, present, and future female employees of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department.” Johnson, 99 F.R.D. 562. The Johnson plaintiffs alleged the following: first, the departmental officials assign officers to jobs and shifts based on the officers' sex; second, male officers in the department have sexually harassed female officers; third, departmental officials have retaliated against two female officers because of their participation in this litigation. In May 1991, Williams and Love substituted Johnson as class representative when Johnson was dismissed as a plaintiff.

Two years later, on January 8, 1985, the court approved and entered a consent decree prohibiting the department from discriminating against its female officers and requiring that it adopt new nondiscriminatory policies with regard to promotions, transfers, and job and shift assignments. Johnson, 604 F. Supp. 1346.

In 1986, the Johnson plaintiffs filed a request for additional relief. In a 1986 supplemental consent decree resolving the request, the department agreed to hire an independent consultant to develop promotion procedures for all ranks as required by the 1985 decree.

Three years later, on May 26, 1988, four African American officers in the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department moved to intervene in the Sims case. They alleged that the department continued to discriminate against black officers. The court allowed this intervention and certified a new plaintiff class (“the Scott intervenors”), consisting of all past, present, and future black officers in the Sheriff’s Department. The Scott class alleged a number of different claims of race discrimination: individual and class claims of disparate treatment, retaliation, and harassment. Also in 1988, the Johnson plaintiffs charged that the department continued to discriminate against women. This resulted in litigation over the next two years.

On November 27, 1990, Judge Thompson ruled that the Scott intervenors prevailed partly in demonstrating racial discrimination and were therefore entitled to injunctive relief. Specifically, Judge Thompson found that the African American officers established racial discrimination through hostile working environment; racial harassment; widespread use of racially derogatory language; and disparate treatment in promotions, personnel decisions and discipline. However, they failed to sufficiently support disparate impact claims. As a result, the class was awarded a permanent injunction prohibiting the Sheriff's Department from assigning its officers to patrol cars and to neighborhoods based on an officer’s race. In addition, The Sheriff's Department was also required to change its procedures with regard to promotions, discipline, transfers, and job assignments. Finally, the Scott intervenors were entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees and expenses. Sims, 766 F. Supp. 1052.

As for the Johnson plaintiffs, Judge Thompson ruled that female officers established claims of sex discrimination in job shifts and assignments and sexual harassment under both quid pro quo and hostile environment theories. As a result, the court permanently enjoined the defendants from enforcing sexually discriminatory policies and discriminating against female officers in the assignment of jail recreational officers. In addition, the court prohibited the defendants from engaging in sexual harassment of female officers. Lastly, the Johnson plaintiffs were entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees and expenses. Sims, 766 F. Supp. 1052.

On the same day, the court also permitted a group of white male deputies to intervene in this litigation. These white male deputies claimed that the department promoted black deputies instead of white deputies to the rank of “law enforcement sergeant” on the basis of race in violation of federal law. The court certified them as a class (“the Dodson intervenors”) for the purpose of challenging promotion procedures within the department on May 18, 1992. The Dodson intervenors named the following as defendants: the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department, the Montgomery County Commission; the Montgomery City–County Personnel Board, the Montgomery County Commissioners in their official capacities, and the County Sheriff and Chief Deputy in their official capacities. The Dodson intervenors charged that the defendants violated the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968.

On May 7, 1991, the Sheriff’s Department submitted to the court for review and approval a proposed Manual of Policies and Procedures for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. The Manual was offered to satisfy the requirements to adopt a permanent plan to provide nondiscriminatory procedures set forth in the 1990 injunction. 766 F. Supp. 1052. The court approved the Manual and ordered the department to implement the Manual. The Sheriff’s Department later submitted new promotion procedures, which were also approved by the court.

On October 20, 1994, all parties except the Dodson intervenors joined in a motion for approval of a permanent promotion plan for the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain in both the law enforcement and corrections divisions of the department. The defendants requested that the court move with dispatch because the proposed plan had a beginning date of January 1, 1995. On December 7, 1994, after giving public notice of the proposed plan and holding two fairness hearings pursuant to Rule 23(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e–2(n)(1), the court entered an order summarily approving the proposed plan, without giving any reasons for approval.

The court offered a memorandum explaining why it approved the plan on July 3, 1995. As to Sims plaintiffs, Williams plaintiffs, and Scott Intervenors. The court found that the settlement was fair, adequate, and reasonable. Though a number of the Dodson intervenors objected to the proposed permanent promotion plan claiming that the plan would have an adverse impact on their hiring, the court found that this claim was premature, as there were not yet any specific selection applied to create such an impact. The Dodson intervenors also objected for a number of other reasons, but the court sustained none of them. 890 F. Supp. 1520. The Dodson Intervenors went on to appeal this decision. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed without an opinion on June 24, 1997.

Meanwhile, both the Dodson intervenors and the defendants filed for summary judgment motions on the intervenors’ challenge to a 1988 promotion of black sergeants. On December 29, 1994, the court granted summary judgment for the defendants, rejecting the Dodson class’s claims that the department promoted black deputies instead of white deputies on the basis of race, in violation of federal law. The court pointed out that the Dodson intervenors claims are inconsistent because they sometimes appeared to be challenging the legality of the 1973 Sims decree, but sometimes appeared to be challenging the defendants’ interpretation of the decree. Sims, 873 F. Supp. 585.

On February 28, 1995, the Scott intervenors appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. This appeal was dismissed on April 17, 1996, because the district court had not resolved all the substantive issues in the class action.

Also during 1995, the court approved a settlement agreement between the Williams plaintiffs and the defendants that determined the procedures for selecting a new administrator for the Montgomery county jail. As a result of those procedures, no administrator was selected. So on September 22, the County moved to amend the consent decree to allow for the hiring of an interim administrator and to re-open the search for candidates. The Court approved this on July 2, 1996.

On November 12, 1997, the defendants filed a motion to terminate the Sims litigation. The court required the defendants to give notice to all plaintiff class members and conducted a fairness hearing on April 9, 1998. The court concluded that the notice and fairness hearing were sufficient under the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

On June 9, 1998, Judge Thompson ruled that the county had achieved the objectives of the 1973 plan for remedying racial discrimination in employment and the county sheriff was in compliance with a 1990 injunction prohibiting further employment discrimination. Thus, the Sims case was dismissed. Sims, 9 F.Supp.2d 1281. However, the Johnson/Williams litigation continued.

On April 7, 2000, the defendants filed a motion to terminate the Johnson/Williams litigation and the motion was granted on June 20, 2000. Judge Thompson thereby dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety. On August 15, 2000, Judge Thompson denied the plaintiffs’ motion for Attorney Fees, Costs, and Expenses.

Both the Sims and Johnson litigation are closed.

Sichun Liu - 01/26/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Male
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Promotion
Retaliation Prohibition
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-area
Discipline
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Promotion
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Disparate Treatment
Retaliation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) Montgomery County Commission
Plaintiff Description A class of past, present, and future black officers in the Montgomery County Commission and Sheriff’s Department.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 1972
Case Closing Year 1998
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing EE-AL-0108 : Johnson v. Montgomery County Sheriff's Department (M.D. Ala.)
Docket(s)
2:82-cv-00717 (M.D. Ala.)
EE-AL-0092-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/15/2000
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion (544 F.Supp. 420) (M.D. Ala.)
EE-AL-0092-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/01/1982
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion (766 F.Supp. 1052) (M.D. Ala.)
EE-AL-0092-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/27/1990
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion (873 F.Supp. 585) (M.D. Ala.)
EE-AL-0092-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/29/1994
Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion (9 F.Supp.2d 1281) (M.D. Ala.)
EE-AL-0092-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/09/1998
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Coody, Charles S. (M.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-9000
Thompson, Myron Herbert (N.D. Ala., M.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-0001 | EE-AL-0092-0002 | EE-AL-0092-0003 | EE-AL-0092-0004 | EE-AL-0092-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Flack, David George (Alabama) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-9000
Sabel, Mark Wayne Jr. (Alabama) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Adams, John Wesley Jr (Alabama) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-9000
Clinton, Cynthia Williams (Alabama) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-9000
Means, Tyrone Carlton (Alabama) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-9000
Thomas, Kenneth L. (Alabama) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-9000
Weinberg, Robert M. (Alabama) show/hide docs
EE-AL-0092-9000

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