3 minute read

United States v. Paradise


The Court upheld the district court's order for a "one-for-one" promotion plan to address deliberate discriminatory promotion and hiring practices by the Alabama Department of Public Safety (ADPS). Thus, the Supreme Court ruling did not react to the administration's challenge of the concept of racial quotas. Because the Court's support of this kind of affirmative action was situational, their equivocated support of the concept of racial quotas would later enable that kind of anti-discrimination remedy to be successfully challenged less than a decade after this decision.

In 1972, the Alabama Department of Public Safety (ADPS) was challenged in court by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for practices that excluded blacks from equal employment opportunities. The United States, together with Phillip Paradise, joined the suit as party plaintiffs. When the suit was brought to court, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama agreed with the plaintiffs that the ADPS systematically excluded blacks from employment and thus violated the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment. Accordingly, the court ordered an end to discriminatory practices and charged the ADPS with rectifying the effects of past discrimination. The district court (in its 1972 order) directed ADPS to hire one black police officer for each white officer until blacks composed approximately 25 percent of the state police force. The respondent (Paradise, et al.) appealed claiming that white applicants who had higher eligibility rankings than blacks were denied due process or equal protection under the law because of the one-for-one hiring order.

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court. Shortly after that 1974 decision, however, petitioners asked for further relief from the district court. Petitioners claimed that the ADPS artificially restricted the size of the police force (and therefore, the number of new-hire police officers) in order to circumvent the court injunction mandating anti-discrimination measures. The district court agreed and characterized the actions of the ADPS as being solely for the purpose of frustrating or delaying full relief to the petitioners.

Petitioners again returned to the district court in September of 1977 and requested supplemental relief (additional aid or compensation for harm done) for discriminatory promotion practices by the ADPS. The litigants--petitioners and respondents--were not in complete agreement as to how the ADPS would go about mitigating discrimination in the workplace; however, litigants were bound by a "partial consent decree" (ordered in 1979) which was approved by the district court. As a condition of that decree, the ADPS agreed to develop, within one year, a promotion procedure that would be fair to all potential promotees. The ADPS also agreed that they would conform to promotion procedures that met the 1978 Uniform Guidelines on Employment Selection Procedures. (ADPS would develop similar procedures, initially for rank of corporal, and then extend that practice incrementally to upper ranks--sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and major.) Finally, the court's decree explicitly provided that the petitioners could apply for enforcement of its terms or for other appropriate remedy.

More than a year after the deadline set by the 1979 decree, the Alabama Department of Public Safety proposed a selection procedure for promotion and asked for approval from the district court. The petitioners, however, objected to implementation of those procedures, arguing that it had an adverse impact on blacks. As a resolution to that dispute, the district court approved a second consent decree in 1981. In that decree, ADPS proposed a promotion procedure in which position advancement within the department was based on a test administered by the ADPS. Of 262 applicants who tested, 60 were black (23 percent). Of those 60 blacks, only five (8.3 percent) were listed in the top half of the promotion register and the highest-ranked black candidate was ranked eightieth. The U.S. (at that time, in its role as equal party plaintiff) objected to that list, maintaining that it had an adverse impact on blacks. Again, litigants attempted to negotiate their differences over how to implement corrective measures; however, they could not agree. In response, the ADPS made no promotions for the next nine months.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988United States v. Paradise - Significance, White Officers Intervene, "narrowly Tailored" Requirement Found Acceptable, Impact