464 U.S. 900 (1983)

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U.S. Supreme Court

ASHLEY v. CITY OF JACKSON, MISS. , 464 U.S. 900 (1983)

464 U.S. 900

Ronald N. ASHLEY et al. v. CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, et al No. 82-1390 Supreme Court of the United States October 11, 1983

Petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice REHNQUIST, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting from denial of certiorari. This case presents the question whether a victim of alleged discrimination may have his right to sue totally extinguished by a prior suit to which he was not a party and in which a consent decree was entered before his cause of action even accrued. Because I think the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit erred in holding that a district court cannot entertain a suit challenging practices allegedly mandated or permitted by a prior consent decree, I dissent from the denial of certiorari. In United States v. City of Jackson, Civil Action No. J-74-66(N) (SD Miss.); Corley v. Jackson Police Dept., Civil Action No. 73J-4(C) (SD Miss.). As described by the district court in this case:

"The consent decree entered in United States of America v. City of Jackson required, inter alia, that the City of Jackson adopt and seek to achieve a goal for hiring blacks for one-half of all vacancies in all job classifications, subject to the availability of qualified applicants, until such time as the proportion of blacks to whites in each classification equalled the proportion of blacks to whites in the working age population of the City of Jackson. The Corley v. Jackson Police Department consent decree incorporated by reference the United States of America v. City of Jackson decree and further provided that the Jackson Police Department establish separate promotion eligibility lists for white and black employees and that it make future promotions, subject to the availability of qualified black candidates, alternately from each such list in a one- to-one ratio until the proportion of black persons in supervisory positions and in the ranks above patrolman substantially equalled the proportion of blacks to whites in the working age population of the City of Jackson." Pet. App., at 13A.

In 1976 and 1978, petitioners, who are white, filed two suits against the City of Jackson alleging that the City had discrimi-

Page 464 U.S. 900 , 901

nated against them in the police department by hiring or promoting less qualified blacks solely on the basis of their race. In substance, the complaints alleged that the "goals" established in the prior consent decrees were being treated as strict quotas by the City, and that blacks were being hired and promoted over whites without regard to relative qualifications. See First Amended and Supplemental Complaint at 36-38, Ashley v. City of Jackson, Civil Action No. J76-70(R)(SD Miss. July 11, 1978); Complaint at 20-22, Thaggard v. City of Jackson, Civil Action No. J78-0218(C) (SD Miss. May 22, 1978). Petitioners contended that the challenged practices were not required by the consent decrees or, in the alternative, that the consent decrees were themselves illegal. As a third option, assuming respondent's practices under the consent decrees were necessary to remedy the effects of the City's past racial discrimination, petitioners claimed that they themselves were now victims of that prior discrimination and, as such, were entitled to compensation.

Both suits were brought only after timely charges of discrimination had been filed with the Economic Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and statutory notices of the right to sue received. Jurisdiction of the district court was invoked under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5, and under various other provisions of federal law. The court consolidated the two actions.

Petitioners also filed motions for leave to intervene in the consent decree suits in order to challenge those decrees on their face. The United States opposed the motions on the grounds, among others, that they were untimely and asserted interests already adequately represented by the defendant City. The motions to intervene were denied. No appeal was taken.

Following a hearing, the district court dismissed the consolidated suits for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court determined that "[ t]he practices complained of are the result of consent decrees which were entered" in the prior cases, Pet. App., at 12a, and, thus, that the suits constitute an impermissible collateral attack on the consent decrees over which a different court has continuing jurisdiction. The dismissal was affirmed on the same grounds by the Fifth Circuit, and this petition followed.

I find myself at a loss to understand the origins of the doctrine of " collateral attack" employed by the lower courts in this case to preclude a suit brought by parties who had no connection with the [464 U.S. 900 , 902]

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