Guardians Association v. Civil Service Commission of the City of New York

PETITIONER: Guardians Association
RESPONDENT: Civil Service Commission of the City of New York
LOCATION: Family Court of Ulster County

DOCKET NO.: 81-431
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 463 US 582 (1983)
ARGUED: Nov 01, 1982
DECIDED: Jul 01, 1983

Christopher Crowley - on behalf of the Petitioners
Leonard Koerner - for respondents
Leonard J. Koerner - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Guardians Association v. Civil Service Commission of the City of New York

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 01, 1982 in Guardians Association v. Civil Service Commission of the City of New York

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in Guardians Association against the Civil Service Commission of the City of New York.

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

Christopher Crowley:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court:

I'd like to reserve five minutes for rebuttal.

Our case presents the question of the proper interpretation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and more particularly the question of whether Congress meant in 1964 to limit regulatory agencies to the use of a clear intent standard or whether the Congress contemplated the use of an impact approach, at least so far as defining a prima facie case is concerned.

Our case was brought by black and Hispanic policemen alleging that entry level examinations for the New York City Police Department discriminated in their effect on blacks and Hispanics and that they were not job-related.

The case has had a long history, but the relevant facts here are that the district court ruled that the examinations did have a discriminatory impact on blacks and Hispanics.

It also held that they were not job-related.

The examinations have both a pass-fail character... one has to Pass them to become a policemen; everyone in our case did pass and did become a policeman... but they are also used as the sole determinant of the order in which people were appointed to the department, which made a great deal of difference in our case because the exams were given in '68 to 1970 and appointments were still being made as late as October 1974.

The relevant findings were that there was a disproportionate... that whites were three times as likely to appear in the top two deciles as were the black applicants.

On the job-relatedness question, the district court stressed the fact that there had been no job analysis to see what it was that the exams were testing for and that therefore the exams couldn't be validated.

It was important to make a finding as to Title VI because some members of the class would not be entitled to relief except under Title VI.

The district court found that we had not shown a showing of intent necessary to make out a 1981 violation.

As to Title VI, the district court placed considerable reliance on the regulations which, as the court says, were full of language that evidences an intent to disallow practices with a discriminatory impact, and of course the district court placed great reliance on this Court's unanimous 1974 decision in Lau v. Nichols.

The Court of Appeals affirmed as to Title VII and reversed as to Title VI, relying entire on language of opinions in the Bakke case.

Title VI was passed in 1964 as part of the comprehensive Civil Rights Act.

It provides in Section 601:

"No person shall, on the grounds of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program with federal sponsorship. "

Section 602 mandates that the federal agencies promulgate affirmative regulations to enforce the statute.

Shortly after the Act was passed, a presidential task force set about drafting model regulations.

Five months later in December, seven federal agencies adopted these comprehensive regulations.

They're the same ones at issue now.

They were the ones at issue in Lau.

Thereafter, a total of some 52 federal agencies have adopted these same impact regulations.

The regulations provide in relevant part here that they prohibit the use of

"criteria or methods of administration which have the effect of subjecting persons to discrimination or which have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing accomplishment of the objectives of the program. "

In our brief we talk about the language of the statute and the legislative history.

In my brief time this morning I would like to stress the regulations and their role here.

The one thing that we suggest that comes across clearly, the only thing that comes across very clearly in the long debate about Title VI, is that there was a very broad authorization by the Congress to the federal regulatory agencies to draft regulations to carry out the mandate of Title VI.

They're unusual in that they required affirmative approval by the President, but that was really in a sense an index of how important they were, how importantly they were viewed by the Congress at the time.