Boston Firefighters Union, Local 718 v. Boston Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

PETITIONER: Boston Firefighters Union, Local 718
RESPONDENT: Boston Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
LOCATION: Residence of Gates

DOCKET NO.: 82-185
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 461 US 477 (1983)
ARGUED: Apr 18, 1983
DECIDED: May 16, 1983

ADVOCATES:
James S. Dittmar - on behalf of Respondents
John Mc Mahon - on behalf of Union Petitioners
Thomas A. Barnico - on behalf of State Petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Boston Firefighters Union, Local 718 v. Boston Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 1983 in Boston Firefighters Union, Local 718 v. Boston Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Boston Firefighters against Castro, Beecher, and all.

Mr. Barnico, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Thomas A. Barnico:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts appears here today seeking reversal of orders entered by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts on August 7, 1981.

We thus seek the same result as the Union Petitioners in these cases.

To accomplish that result, however, we bring a different appeal and different arguments before the Court.

We appeal from the unjustified suspension of a Massachusetts law that requires that layoffs in public safety positions be made in reverse order of seniority.

After briefly stating these cases, it is my intention to argue that the District Court abused its discretion by suspending that law where no previous orders or decrees entered in these cases concerned layoffs and where entry of the orders contradicted principles of federalism that govern the exercise of the federal equity power.

The orders at issues were entered in on-going cases with long judicial histories and state-wide application.

Ten years ago the District Courts in these cases entered judgments and found that state examination procedures for police and fire positions unintentionally, and I repeat, unintentionally violated the rights of the plaintiffs.

Remedial orders were entered.

Those orders required a new examination and also required preferential certification of minorities to local cities and towns.

As a result of the preferential certifications, the percentage of minorities in Massachusetts city and town police and fired forces increased substantially.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Barnico, were those original orders entered of indefinite duration?

Thomas A. Barnico:

The orders that were entered in August of 1981, Your Honor, or the--

William H. Rehnquist:

No, the original... sometime in the '70's.

I don't know when it was.

Thomas A. Barnico:

--The subsequent decrees entered shortly after those original findings to provide for the remedial phase of the cases applied to the cities and towns until the percentages of minorities reach a percentage commensurate with the percentage in the community.

William H. Rehnquist:

And, has that percentage yet been reached?

Thomas A. Barnico:

Not in Boston, Your Honor, but in many communities, yes.

William H. Rehnquist:

So, as far as Boston is concerned, the decree entered in the '70's still has considerable prospective effect?

Thomas A. Barnico:

Yes, Your Honor.

In the summer of 1981, Boston proposed layoffs in its police and fire departments.

The District Court granted what plaintiffs styled a motion to modify prior remedial orders.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Should the order that we are reviewing here today, having to do with the layoffs, be interpreted as having a permanent effect in your view?

Thomas A. Barnico:

Our view... That is correct, Your Honor.

Our view is by its terms it has permanent application.

That order of August 7, 1981 directed city and state officials to ignore the provisions of the state seniority statute, never challenged and never at issue--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Hasn't there been some recent legislation requiring the reinstatement of all those firemen and policemen who were laid off?