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A district court’s decision to deny class certification to a group of black plaintiffs was vacated by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs were present and former employees of Metro-North Railroad who alleged race bias under Title VII. They sought injunctive and equitable relief, including front pay, backpay and compensatory damages. ( Robinson v Metro-North Commuter RR Co., 2nd Cir, 81 EPD �40,846) The 2nd Circuit noted that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (b)(2) class actions are intended for cases where broad, classwide injunctive or declaratory relief is necessary to redress a groupwide injury. However, the district court abused its discretion in flatly denying (b)(2) certification of the plaintiffs’ pattern-or-practice claim on grounds that the plaintiffs were seeking money damages as well. The 2nd Circuit held that the district court should have analyzed the relative importance of the remedies sought and granted certification if the injunctive or declaratory relief issues predominated. The 2nd Circuit also faulted the district court for refusing the plaintiffs’ alternative request to certify just the liability stage of the pattern-or-practice race bias claim for (b)(2) class treatment. Litigating the liability phase for the class as a whole would reduce the range of issues in dispute and promote judicial economy, the 2nd Circuit said. The district court additionally should have certified the plaintiffs’ disparate impact claim for (b)(2) class treatment. Finally, the 2nd Circuit rejected Metro-North’s contention that the named class plaintiffs were unlikely to fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. Although the class representatives agreed not to seek individual relief, they still stood to benefit from any possible classwide injunctive relief. The 2nd Circuit vacated the case and instructed the district court to certify the disparate impact claim and consider whether the pattern-or-practice claim was appropriate for certification. If the district court determined that certification of the pattern-or-practice claim was inappropriate, it was to bifurcate the claim and certify just the liability stage of that claim for class treatment. � 2002, CCH INCORPORATED. All Rights Reserved.

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