Anderson v. City of Bessemer

RESPONDENT: City of Bessemer
LOCATION: Elstad's Residence

DOCKET NO.: 83-1623
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 470 US 564 (1985)
ARGUED: Dec 03, 1984
DECIDED: Mar 19, 1985

Carolyn F. Corwin - as amici curiae
Jonathan Wallas - on behalf of the Petitioner
Philip M. Van Hoy - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Anderson v. City of Bessemer

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 03, 1984 in Anderson v. City of Bessemer

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Anderson against City of Bessemer.

Mr. Wallas, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

You may raise that lectern, if you would like.

Jonathan Wallas:

This is fine, thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, thank you; may it please the Court:

The issue in this case is whether the court of appeals erred in its application of Rule 52(a) when it concluded that the district court's findings of fact, including the ultimate finding of sex discrimination, were without evidentiary support.

The facts of this case can be briefly stated as follows.

In March 1975 the job of recreation director became vacant... became vacant in the city of Bessemer City.

Eight applicants for the job were interviewed by a five-person committee.

The committee consisted of four men and one woman.

Prior to selection, no job duties, selection guidelines or criteria for selection, written or otherwise, were provided to or promulgated by the selection committee, except the requirement that the successful applicant live in Bessemer City or be willing to relocate there.

Although no job description was provided to the selection committee, the committee unanimously agreed that the recreation director's job was to develop a diverse program of recreation activities for all ages and sexes in the community.

The unanimous first choice of the committee for the job was a man by the name of Burt Broadway, but Mr. Broadway was not willing to relocate to Bessemer City, and he was not formally offered the position.

The committee found two other applicants well qualified for the position... Donald Kincaid and Phyllis Anderson.

Kincaid was selected by a 4 to 1 vote.

The four male members of the committee voted for Mr. Kincaid; the one female member of the committee voted for Ms. Anderson.

At trial the parties presented conflicting evidence about a number of material facts, especially about the motivation of the selection committee.

The district court, citing and following a law established by this Court in the McDonnell Douglas case and the Burdine case, a legal analysis that has not been challenged by the respondent and which was not criticized by the Fourth Circuit, found that the city's sole articulation that Kincaid was selected, because he had a college degree in physical education, was pretextual.

The district court specifically found that the male committee members voted for Mr. Kincaid because he was a male, and that but for discrimination based on sex, the plaintiff would have been selected for the position.

The City appealed, contending that the court's findings of fact were clearly erroneous under Rule 52(a).

The Fourth Circuit, largely adopting the City's analysis of the evidence, reversed.

We contend that the district court correctly assumed and applied its responsibilities and finding of facts, including the issue of discriminatory motivation, as explicitly required by this Court's decisions in Swint and Aikens, and that the findings of the district court are supported by substantial evidence.

Conversely, we contend that the Fourth Circuit strayed from its proper role under Rule 52 as an appellate court and that it wore blinders which prevented it from discovering the ample evidence which in fact supports the district court's findings; it selectively cited only those portions of the record which supported the facts found by the Fourth Circuit on the de novo basis, even going so far in footnote 4 to its opinion to excise a portion of Mrs. Boone's testimony about the relative qualifications of Ms. Kincaid and Mr. Anderson, thereby misrepresenting the substance of Ms. Boone's testimony.

It adopted a working wife defense, contrary to reason and law, which was then utilized to rebut the substantial evidence of bias found by the district court.

I would now like to discuss the evidence of discrimination found by the district court, evidence of such quantity and quality and with such support in the record that we contend strongly calls for this Court to reverse the court of appeals with instructions to reinstate the district court's verdict.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Wallas, would it be accurate to describe Bessemer City as a suburb of Gastonia?

Jonathan Wallas:

Your Honor, I don't think it's a suburb of Gastonia.

It's a small, independent town fairly close to Gastonia.

William H. Rehnquist:

But not really a suburb.

Jonathan Wallas:

That's correct.