Case: M.O.C.H.A. Society, Inc. v. City of Buffalo

1:98-cv-00099 | U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York

Filed Date: Feb. 10, 1998

Closed Date: Aug. 9, 2013

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This class-action lawsuit began on February 10, 1998, when a nonprofit organization called Men of Color Helping All Society, Inc. (MOCHA), along with two other plaintiffs (the President of MOCHA and an individual person), filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts as the representatives of African American Firefighters employed by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Fire Department (Defendants). Later on, many individual white firefighters intervened in the l…

This class-action lawsuit began on February 10, 1998, when a nonprofit organization called Men of Color Helping All Society, Inc. (MOCHA), along with two other plaintiffs (the President of MOCHA and an individual person), filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts as the representatives of African American Firefighters employed by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Fire Department (Defendants). Later on, many individual white firefighters intervened in the lawsuit as plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs brought employment discrimination claims under §§ 1981, 1983, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that the City discriminated against African Americans when it promoted firefighters to the job of Fire Lieutenant based on the scores of a racially biased promotional examination administered on April 6, 2002 (2002 Lieutenant's Exam). The Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, sought injunctive relief, declaratory judgment, and monetary damages. The case was assigned to Judge John T. Curtin.

The Plaintiffs submitted multiple amended complaints over the course of the lawsuit--they submitted an amended complaint first in May 1998, which the Defendants quickly moved to dismiss. The Plaintiffs then filed a Second Amended Complaint on October 19, 2000, and the Defendants again requested the Court in December 2000 to dismiss the complaint. The Second Amended Complaint was comprised of two parts: (A) the drug-testing policy, and (B) the promotion policies and practices. Further into the case, the Plaintiffs in June 2005 filed a Third Amended Complaint when the parties were in the middle of discovery.

One of the Plaintiffs' first attempts to prohibit the Defendants' practices occurred in July 2001--the Plaintiffs filed an Ex Parte motion for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Judge Curtin granted this motion, but a few days later, he ordered that the TRO be lifted.

On March 16, 2002, Judge Curtin dismissed many of the Plaintiffs' claims. He ordered that the following should be dismissed:

- claim for punitive damages against the City

- claim against individual City defendants sued in their official capacities

- Title VII claims against 2 individual City defendants

- claims against the Fire department as a separate entity

- conspiracy claim under § 1985(3)

However, Judge Curtin denied the motion to dismiss with regard to:

- dismissal of the action for lack of standing

- claims under §§ 1981, 1983, and Title VII

M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo, 199 F.Supp.2d 40 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 27, 2002)

On August 26, 2003, the Plaintiffs filed a motion for class certification. The parties were at the same time continuing their efforts to reach a joint confidentiality agreement. Throughout this time, discovery continued, and the parties had various disagreements throughout 2003 and 2004 as to what kind of evidence the parties were obligated to reveal.

Even though discovery had not been completed, on May 11, 2004, MOCHA moved for summary judgment. Essentially, MOCHA asked the court to conclude that the City of Buffalo discriminatorily promoted firefighters to lieutenant based on the Examination for Fire Lieutenant (given on March 14, 1998) because the examination had a disparate impact on African American firefighters and that the City of Buffalo failed to prove the use of the Examination was job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. The Defendants quickly filed a cross-motion requesting denial of Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion so that necessary discovery may be completed.

On February 28, 2005, Judge Curtin ruled in favor of the Defendants. Therefore, the parties had no choice but to continue discovery until April 20, 2007, when Judge Curtin ordered the parties to close discovery. M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo, 2005 WL 589834 (W.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2005).

After discovery ended, the parties filed multiple motions in June 2007. First, MOCHA attempted once again to certify its class; it filed an amended motion for class certification. However, in February 2008, Judge Curtin decided to defer ruling on the class certification request pending the results of a Hearing and Oral Argument (scheduled for June 2008). Second, at the same time as MOCHA's motion, the City of Buffalo moved for partial summary judgment on certain issues including intentional discrimination and punitive damages. Third, MOCHA submitted a cross-motion to the Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment. Ultimately, Judge Curtin denied both parties' requests for dismissal on November 9, 2007.

As the case progressed, Judge Curtin and the parties also encountered some difficulties with a group of litigants in a related case who had vested interests in the outcome of this case. On November 15, 2007, the City of Buffalo filed a motion for preliminary injunction to enjoin white firefighters from further prosecuting or participating as plaintiffs in an action in New York State Supreme Court known as Margerum, et al. v. City of Buffalo, et al. In that case, white firefighters sought reinstatement to their promotional positions on expired civil service eligibility lists. Judge Curtin granted Buffalo's request on December 19, 2007, ruling that the plaintiffs in Margerum must wait until the outcome of the MOCHA case. The reason was that ruling otherwise would curtail the court's ability to fully adjudicate and fashion appropriate remedies in the MOCHA case. M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo, 2007 WL 4555904 (W.D.N.Y. Dec. 19, 2007).

The problem with the litigants from Margerum continued, however. After Judge Curtin's decision, the thirteen Plaintiffs in Margerum, et al. v. City of Buffalo sought in February 2008 to intervene as Plaintiffs to appeal the Court's December 2007 ruling. Judge Curtin granted the motion, and the new Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the City from making any further appointments to the promotional positions of Fire Lieutenant or Fire Captain until after this court's December 19, 2007 order expires or, alternatively, until that order is vacated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (USCA). However, on May 7, 2008, Judge Curtin denied this second request. The intervenors appealed this denial, but they ended up quickly withdrawing the appeal.

After the intervenor issue was successfully resolved, the Court held a five-day evidentiary hearing (bench trial) between June and August 2008. On August 20, 2008, Judge Curtin decided to defer ruling on the Plaintiffs' previous motion to certify class.

By early 2009, the case started to solidify in favor of the Defendants. Judge Curtin's March 9, 2009 decision was an important milestone. In this decision, Judge Curtin dismissed the Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint B to the extent it seeks relief under Title VII. Furthermore, Judge Curtin conclusively held that the Lieutenant's Exam was job related for the position and consistent with business necessity. This decision established that the Exam is a valid, nondiscriminatory employment selection procedure as a matter of law. M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo (M.O.C.H.A. I), 98-cv-99C, 2009 WL 604898 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 9, 2009).

That conclusion was crucial for shaping the remainder of the case, and it was instrumental in the Defendant's eventual win. The Defendant carried this momentum throughout 2009--in May 2009, the City of Buffalo again filed a motion for summary judgment for the remaining claim in Complaint B. Judge Curtin's decision from May 10, 2010 granting this motion is a crucial point in this case because it dismissed Complaint B in its entirety. M.O.C.H.A. Soc., Inc. v. City of Buffalo (M.O.C.H.A. II), 98-cv-99C, 2010 WL 1875735 (W.D.N.Y. May 10, 2010); 2010 WL 1930654 (W.D.N.Y. May 12, 2010). The Plaintiffs appealed, but USCA on July 30, 2012, affirmed Judge Curtin's order. M.O.C.H.A. Society, Inc. v. City of Buffalo, 689 F.3d 263 (C.A.2 (N.Y.) 2012.)

Complaint A still remained, but it did not last long because on May 30, 2012, Judge Curtin dismissed all the claims alleged in the Third Amended Complaint A. The Plaintiffs appealed, but similar to the result for Complaint B, USCA on August 9, 2013 affirmed Judge Curtin's order. The case thus ended with a final judgment in favor of all Defendants.

The case closed in 2013.

Summary Authors

Lisa Koo (5/28/2019)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attrorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4781661/parties/mocha-society-v-city-of-buffalo/


Judge(s)

Curtin, John Thomas (New York)

Kearse, Amalya Lyle (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Coleman, Jennifer A (New York)

Driscoll, Michael C. (New York)

Gill, Thomas S (Maryland)

Jay, David G. (New York)

Sanders, Harvey P (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Brown, Joseph S (New York)

Feinstein, Joshua Isaac (New York)

Giroux, E. Joseph (New York)

Judge(s)

Curtin, John Thomas (New York)

Kearse, Amalya Lyle (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Coleman, Jennifer A (New York)

Driscoll, Michael C. (New York)

Gill, Thomas S (Maryland)

Jay, David G. (New York)

Sanders, Harvey P (New York)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Brown, Joseph S (New York)

Feinstein, Joshua Isaac (New York)

Giroux, E. Joseph (New York)

Jarvis, James Lawrence Jr. (New York)

Johnsen, Jonathan G (New York)

Perry, Adam W (New York)

Putrino, Christopher M (New York)

Risman, Micheal B (New York)

Sammarco, Andrea L (New York)

Schwan, W. James (New York)

Sellers, Kathleen M. (New York)

Other Attorney(s)

Fleming, Andrew P. (New York)

Pierrot, Christen Archer (New York)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

1:98-cv-00099

Docket [PACER]

Dec. 11, 2018

Dec. 11, 2018

Docket

1:98-cv-00099

Opinion

199 F.Supp.2d 40

March 16, 2002

March 16, 2002

Order/Opinion

1:98-cv-00099

Opinion

272 F.Supp.2d 217

July 7, 2003

July 7, 2003

Order/Opinion
302

1:98-cv-00099

Order

Dec. 13, 2007

Dec. 13, 2007

Order/Opinion
381

1:98-cv-00099

Order

Aug. 20, 2008

Aug. 20, 2008

Order/Opinion
432

1:98-cv-00099

Decision and Order

May 10, 2010

May 10, 2010

Order/Opinion
498

1:98-cv-00099

Decision and Order

May 30, 2012

May 30, 2012

Order/Opinion
86

11-02184

10-02168

Opinion (2nd Cir.)

M.O.C.H.A. Society v. City of Buffalo

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

689 F.3d 263

July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4781661/mocha-society-v-city-of-buffalo/

Last updated July 23, 2022, 3:20 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
291

ORDER denying 259 City's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; denying Plaintiffs' 266 Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. A telephone conference will be held with counsel on 11/30/2007 to discuss a schedule for oral argument of Plaintiff's renewed Motion for Class Certification. Signed by Judge John T. Curtin on 11/9/2007. (JEC)

Nov. 9, 2007

Nov. 9, 2007

RECAP
302

ORDER granting 292 the City of Buffalo's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, enjoining certain Buffalo firefighters and their attorneys from further prosecuting or participating as Plaintiffs in a New York State Supreme Court action known as Margerum, et al. v. City of Buffalo, Index No. 1462/2007, pending the outcome of the trial in this action, which is now scheduled to commence on 6/30/2008. The Clerk is directed to enter a copy of this Order on the docket in 74-CV-1995 (relating to Items 544, 545, and 550), and 03-CV-580 (relating to Item 57), and to send a copy of this Order to Andrew Fleming, Esq., attorney for the Margerum Plaintiffs. Signed by Judge John T. Curtin on 12/13/2007. (JEC)

Dec. 19, 2007

Dec. 19, 2007

RECAP
315

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION deferring ruling on Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification pending the results of a Hearing and Oral Argument which will be held on 6/16/2008 at 11:00 AM before Hon. John T. Curtin. A Final Pretrial Conference will be conducted at the conclusion of the Hearing to discuss all matters pertaining to the Trial now scheduled for 6/30/2008. Pretrial Statements are due 6/9/2008. Signed by Hon. John T. Curtin on 2/6/2008. (JEC)

Feb. 6, 2008

Feb. 6, 2008

RECAP
319

ORDER granting 306 Intervenors' Motion for Leave to Intervene for the purpose of appealing this court's 12/19/07 Order. The Clerk is directed the amend the Civil Docket to indicate that these non-parties are permitted to intervene. The Intervenors' application for reconsideration of this court's 12/19/07 Order is denied. The parties are directed to meet and confer in an attempt to informally resolve the City's 308 Motion for contempt. In the event no informal resolution is reached, the court will take up this motion upon conclusion of the Class Certification Hearing and Final Pretrial Conference on 6/16/08 at 11 a.m. Signed by Judge John T. Curtin on 2/16/2008. (JEC)

Feb. 21, 2008

Feb. 21, 2008

RECAP
339

DECISION AND ORDER denying 322 Intervenors' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. Signed by Hon. John T. Curtin on 5/2/2008. (JEC)

May 7, 2008

May 7, 2008

RECAP
393

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION denying Plaintiff's Motion for Permission to Take Further Testimony 380 . The parties shall simultaneously submit their Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law by 10/17/2008. Responses are due no later than 11/3/2008, at which time the matter will be taken under advisement by the court. Signed by Hon. John T. Curtin on 9/22/2008. (JEC)

Sept. 23, 2008

Sept. 23, 2008

RECAP
408

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION dismissing Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint "B" to the extent it seeks relief under Title VII based on the City's use of the results of the 1998 Lieutenant's Exam to promote Buffalo firefighters to the rank of lieutenant. This court's 12/19/2009 order enjoining the plaintiffs in the State court action entitled Margerum, et al. v. City of Buffalo, et al., Index No. 1462/2007 and their attorneys from seeking further relief in the State cour ts is hereby rescinded. A telephone conference shall be held on 3/31/2009 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss a schedule for further proceedings in this action and in 03-CV-580. The court will initiate the call. Signed by Hon. John T. Curtin on 3/4/2009. (JEC)

March 9, 2009

March 9, 2009

RECAP
432

DECISION AND ORDER dismissing Defendants' 418 Second MOTION for Summary Judgment, and Second Amended Complaint "B" is dismissed in its entirety. Signed by Hon. John T. Curtin on 5/7/2010. (JEC)

May 10, 2010

May 10, 2010

RECAP
453

DECISION AND ORDER granting 444 Plaintiffs' MOTION for Entry of Judgment under Rule 54(b). The Clerk is directed to enter final judgment in favor of defndants on the claims raised in Complaint B pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). Signed by Hon. John T. Curtin on 5/23/2011. (JEC)

May 24, 2011

May 24, 2011

RECAP
498

DECISION AND ORDER granting the [467, 470] Summary Judgment Motions filed by the City Defendants and the Union, and the claims alleged in Third Amended Complaint "A" are dismissed. The Clerk is directed to enter final judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54 in favor of all Defendants, dismissing this action in its entirety. Signed by Hon. John T. Curtin on 5/30/2012. (JEC)

May 30, 2012

May 30, 2012

RECAP

Case Details

State / Territory: New York

Case Type(s):

Equal Employment

Key Dates

Filing Date: Feb. 10, 1998

Closing Date: Aug. 9, 2013

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A non-profit organization called Men of Color Helping All Society, Inc (MOCHA), its President, and 8 individuals on behalf of themselves and as representatives of African American firefighters employed by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Fire Department. The Plaintiffs claimed that they had been discriminated against by the Defendants' promotional policies.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Mooted before ruling

Defendants

City of Buffalo (Buffalo, Erie), City

Buffalo Fire Department (Buffalo, Erie), None

Defendant Type(s):

Fire

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

42 U.S.C. § 1981

Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e

Constitutional Clause(s):

Commerce Power

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

Disparate Impact

Disparate Treatment

Pattern or Practice

Discrimination-area:

Promotion

Testing

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Race:

Black