Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chapter v. Beecher

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 21, 2018

NANCY B. BEECHER, et al. Defendants. PEDRO CASTRO, et al. Plaintiffs,
NANCY B. BEECHER, et al. Defendants.


          Patti B. Saris Chief U.S. District Judge.


         This case involves two consent decrees entered into more than four decades ago governing the hiring procedures for police and fire departments in certain cities in Massachusetts. Plaintiffs and Defendant Massachusetts Human Resources Division (“HRD”) have jointly moved to modify the consent decrees controlling entry-level police officers in eight communities[1] and entry-level firefighters in four communities[2] pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(5). While agreeing on several key modifications, the parties disagree on the factors to be considered in defining the “qualified labor pool” and the appropriate end point for the decrees. After a hearing, the Court ALLOWS Plaintiffs' motion to modify in part and ALLOWS Defendants' motion to modify in part. (Dkt. Nos. 44, 46).


         I. The History

         The two consent decrees that have governed the hiring of entry-level police officers and firefighters were entered in the 1970s in two separate cases. In both Beecher (involving firefighters in Springfield) and Castro (involving police officers in Boston), the courts found that the entrance examinations administered by HRD had a racially discriminatory effect and imposed ratios for hiring Black and Hispanic candidates in most cities as the remedy.[3]

         The First Circuit ordered HRD to create hiring certification lists using fixed ratios of minorities (Black and Hispanic) and other applicants, “perhaps one from the priority pool to every one, two or three from the second pool, until the priority pool has been exhausted.” Castro v. Beecher, 459 F.2d 725, 737 (1st Cir. 1972). It later described the prescribed procedure that applied to Boston police officers as follows:

The Castro consent decree required HRD to prepare certification lists by creating two groups. The first, “Group A, ” would “consist of all Black and Spanish-surnamed applicants who pass a future police entrance examination and are otherwise qualified for appointment on the basis of existing requirements.” The second, “Group B, ” would “consist of all other persons who pass a future police entrance examination and are otherwise qualified for appointment on the basis of existing requirements.” When an appointing authority, such as the City [of Boston], sought to hire police officers, it would send a request to HRD, which would send the appointing authority a certification list ordered “on the basis of one candidate from Group A for every candidate certified from Group B.” In making its hiring decisions, if the appointing authority chose to reject a candidate in favor of another candidate who appeared lower on the HRD list, HRD would not approve the appointment unless the appointing authority “furnished [HRD] with a written statement of [its] reasons” for doing so; HRD would then provide a “written statement of those reasons to . . . the candidate upon written request.”
The Castro decree was to remain in effect for a given city until that city's police department “achieves a complement of minorities commensurate with the percentage of minorities within the community.”

Sullivan v. City of Springfield, 561 F.3d 7, 10-11 (1st Cir. 2009). In 1992, the First Circuit rejected the argument that even if the goals of the Beecher decree had not yet been accomplished, the decree was “constitutionally infirm because it [swept] too broadly.” Mackin v. City of Boston, 969 F.2d 1273, 1277 (1st Cir. 1992). The First Circuit has thrice reaffirmed --in Mackin in 1992, Quinn v. City of Boston in 2003, [4] and Sullivan in 2009 -- that a city would not be released from the consent decrees until “rough parity” was reached.[5] Id.

         Eventually, the consent decrees applied to hiring of entry-level police officers and firefighters in over 100 municipalities in Massachusetts with a minority population of at least one percent, most of which have subsequently been released. The Court released Boston, which was subject to a one-to-one ratio, in 2004. See DeLeo v. City of Boston, No. 03-12538-PBS, 2004 WL 5740819, at *10-11 (D. Mass. Nov. 23, 2004). As of January 2018, the police consent decree remains binding on eight municipalities and the firefighter consent decree on four. All but one are required to use a certification list based on a one-to-three ratio. Springfield is subject to a one-to-one ratio.

         II. The Cap

         In August 2016, the parties discovered that the consent decrees were actually having the adverse and unintended effect of “capping” minority representation in certain remaining consent-decree cities. The one-to-three ratio effectively created a cap on minority hiring in cities that had a minority population that exceeded 25 percent. As the minority population in these cities increased after the 1970s, the formula, which was supposed to remedy the effects of the racially discriminatory examinations, unfortunately turned out to impede minority hiring.

         HRD explains: “Despite census data reflecting Black and Hispanic citizenry exceeding 40% of the total population in all five remaining cities with populations below 100, 000, minority exam-passers (while often a majority on these cities' hiring lists) are effectively limited by the decrees to only 25% of certification list slots until one of the racial pools is exhausted.” Dkt. No. 32 at 3-4. Due to the “changing demographics” of the consent decree cities and the fact that many more minority candidates are taking and passing the exams, the HRD states that application of the certification ratios contributed to municipalities' inability to make progress towards parity and therefore procure release from the consent decrees. Id. at 4.

         To remedy this problem, the parties jointly agree that this Court must modify the decrees to suspend the application of their ratio requirements when they would lower the rank order of minority candidates on certification lists. This Court allowed the joint motion to modify the consent decrees on September 14, 2016. Dkt. No. 10. This so-called “safety valve” modification required HRD to suspend the application of the certification ratios otherwise required under the consent decrees when such application would reduce the number of qualified minority candidates who would otherwise appear on a certification list or lower the rank of qualified Black or Hispanic candidates. Since the modifications went into effect, 15 of the 18 certification lists were issued in strict rank order in accordance with the safety valve modifications.

         During a September 2016 hearing, the Court ordered the parties to address three subjects: (1) potential remedies for minority candidates who had been passed over due to the terms of the consent decree “cap”; (2) steps to be taken to help the cities reach the goal of parity identified in the consent decrees; and (3) given the age of the consent decrees, whether they should be terminated before “parity” was reached in the remaining consent-decree cities.


         Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b) provides “on motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding” if “the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged . . . or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable.” More broadly, a court may relieve a party from an order for “any other reason that justifies relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6).

         The “flexible standard” in Rule 60(b) applies to consent decrees. Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk Cty. Jail, 502 U.S. 367, 381 (1992). “A party seeking modification of a consent decree may meet its initial burden by showing either a significant change either in factual conditions or in law.” Id. at 384. Modifications to the decree are permissible when “changed factual conditions make compliance with the decree[s] substantially more onerous, ” “unworkable because of unforeseen obstacles, or when enforcement of the decree[s] without modification would be detrimental to the public interest.” Id. Consent decrees must be modified if the “obligation placed upon the parties has become impermissible under federal law.” Id. at 388.

         If the moving party establishes changed circumstances, a court must make modifications “suitably tailored to the changed circumstance.” Id. at 391. A court should defer to government administrators who have the primary responsibility for solving the problem of institutional reform when resolving the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.