In April of 2009, a U.S. Court of Appeals in the Sixth Circuit, decided an appeal from a lower Tennessee court. The issues on appeal were that the Plaintiff claimed that two evidentiary rulings were made by the district court: 1) the exclusion of an exhibit offered by Plaintiff as hearsay due to the lack of an appropriate witness to lay the proper foundation for the document, and 2) the granting of a motion in limine in which the district court prohibited the admission of certain evidence from a prior action between the same parties. (See Cobbins v. Tennessee Department of Transportation, 566 F.3d 582 (6th Ct. of App. 2009). A race discrimination lawyer can assist you with this case.
Mr. Cobbins is an African-American male who worked for the defendant as a maintenance worker since February of 1994. In March of 2004, Mr. Cobbins applied for any open position. In May of 2004, the Highway Maintenance County Supervisor position became available. And after a few people dropped out, it came down to Mr. Cobbins and Mr. Staggs for the position. Mr. Staggs is white and had a higher civil service score than Mr. Cobbins. In Tennessee, the Department of Human Resources is responsible for reviewing applications to verify that the applicants meet the minimum qualifications for the posted job. Then it creates a list of ‘Certificate of Eligibles’ which is then submitted. The H.R. also comes up with the civil service score based on the applicants education, training, and work experience.
Mr. Cobbins had less education, less training and less work experience. Also, in his file there were several oral and written warnings from his prior supervisors, Mr. Yocum. Mr. Yocum is white and Mr. Cobbins had filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against him prior to this case. He had a race discrimination lawyer to assist him.
The attached is a video showing a classic example of racial discrimination that had made the news a short while ago. See it and then continue on with the case at hand.
Mr. Cobbins filed with the EEOC, then got his right to sue letter and did so. After litigation and prior to trial, the district court threw out all of his claims expect for the claim for discrimination in relation to promotion. After a 2 day trial, the jury came back for the defendant. Plaintiff appealed.
The first issue the appellate court looked at was whether the document, Mr. Staggs’ application, should have been allowed in to evidence. Mr. Cobbins wanted to bring it in because on the application, Mr. Staggs stated he had postsecondary education after high school during the years 1991-1995. Mr. Staggs did not even graduation high school until 1995. So, Mr. Cobbins wanted to impute knowledge of this alleged falsehood to the neutral decision maker who chose Staggs over plaintiff for the position. The appeals court, first did not think it was even a hearsay document, and second, that even if it was hearsay, that it should have come in either the public record exception or business records exception. The document had been stipulation by both parties that it was authentic. Even if plaintiff could not find a state employee who was a custodian of records, the document should have come in. Business records are properly admitted under the business records exception to the hearsay rule if they satisfy four requirements: 1) they must have been made in the course of regularly conducted business activities, 2) they must have been kept in the regular course of business, 3) the regular practice of that business must have been to have made the memorandum, and 4) the memorandum must have been made by a person with knowledge of the transaction or from information transmitted by a person with knowledge.
Next, the court looked at the excluded testimony concerning plaintiff’s prior claims of race discrimination. Plaintiff wanted to bring into evidence his former supervisor’s’ discriminatory animus and motive toward African-Americans. Plaintiff argued that this disparate treatment in discipline by his former supervisor is relevant in the current proceeding because Mr. Yocum’s conduct marred his work record and his opportunity for promotion. Mr. Cobbins was not seeking to re-litigate the prior claims, but just that certain conduct and actions of his supervisor at the time impacted his work record and promotion chances, and such evidence is therefore, relevant to this case. The appeals court agreed and the case was sent back down to be re-tried.
If you have been the subject of a Louisville race discrimination matter, please call and speak to a Louisville race discrimination lawyer at the Law Offices of Andrew S. Alitowski at 888-ASK-ANDREW (275-2637) or contact us online. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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