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Queens Chronicle

Queenswide: City appeals FDNY bias ruling, seeks new judge

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Posted: Monday, January 23, 2012 12:43 pm | Updated: 2:31 am, Thu Oct 11, 2012.

The city is appealing the determination of U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis that it has intentionally discriminated against minorities who want to be firefighters and needs a court-appointed monitor of its hiring practices for at least a decade as a result.

Noting that the case grew from a challenge to two firefighter candidate exams that black and Hispanic applicants failed to pass at the same rate as whites to the charge of purposeful bias, the city claims Garaufis has not been a fair arbiter of the law and should be replaced as the judge hearing the case.

The court "views the city as a 'fiefdom' rife with deliberate race discrimination, whose decision-makers ostensibly conspired to keep the FDNY a 'bastion of white male privilege' by purposely using civil-service exams to screen out black applicants," the city attorney, Michael Cardozo said in the appeal, adding that as the case went on, "the court lost any semblance of neutrality."

The case was initially brought in 2007 by the U.S. Justice Department, which said the FDNY tests given in 1999 and 2002 had a disparate impact against minority candidates. The Vulcan Society, which represents black firefighters, later intervened, and as the lawsuit continued, Garaufis determined the city had intentionally discriminated against minorities. He ruled that an independent monitor was needed to oversee hiring, appointed a former federal prosecutor to the post and blocked the city from taking any steps to hire new firefighters without the appointee's approval.

The city, in its appeal, filed Tuesday, says Garaufis went far beyond the court's mandate in the case and that it should be reassigned because at the very least he has lost the appearance of neutrality.

"It is an understatement to say that this judge has expressed firm views on the city's ostensible intent to discriminate, as well as the supposed need for close judicial oversight of systemic relief," the appeal says. "To any reasonable observer, the vehemence of those beliefs would raise substantial doubt that he could fairly re-evaluate the evidence on either issue."

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