This week the Houston Institute joined an amicus brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit led by Lawyers for Civil Rights. The amicus brief supports Gerald Alston’s appeal from a grant of summary judgment. Alston, a Black former fighter in Brookline, MA, experienced a pattern of workplace discrimination and hostility, and took his case before the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission, where he prevailed. But the U.S. District Court concluded that it was not required to give deference to the factual findings of the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission unless the elements of issue preclusion were met. The Commission had already ruled, after ten full days of hearing, that the Town improperly terminated Gerald Alston from his employment as a Brookline firefighter on the basis of systemic racism and employment discrimination. Despite the Commission’s thorough factual findings on the very same issues, and without any analysis whatsoever as to issue preclusion, the District Court rejected the Commission’s findings in a footnote, and without further discussion or analysis. Accordingly, our brief urges the First Circuit to honor the Commission’s findings and give them preclusive effect, or in the alternative, to find that the District Court’s contrary conclusions on the same factual issues render summary judgment inappropriate.
Our long-term goal is to ensure that every member of our society enjoys equal access to the opportunities, responsibilities, and privileges of membership in the United States. This must include ensuring freedom from discrimination in public service and appropriate redress when public entities create or ignore work environments that foster or tolerate racial disparagement and deny equality of opportunity and advancement to Black people and other people of color.
Read our brief: