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A federal judge in Atlanta has reduced the award won by Fulton County, Ga., librarians in a reverse discrimination suit, but at the same time validated the jury’s verdict. U.S. District Judge Beverly B. Martin of the Northern District of Georgia this month reduced a federal jury’s $23.4 million verdict in a January reverse race discrimination case against the Fulton County Library system, its director and several board members by 28 percent, to $16.8 million. At the same time, Martin also awarded fees and expenses totaling $405,481.73 to Michael J. Bowers, who represented the librarians, and to other attorneys at his Atlanta firm, Meadows, Ichter & Bowers, who assisted on the case. Bogle v. McClure, No. 1:00-cv-2071 (N.D. Ga., May 10, 2002). While the judge disagreed with the size of the award, she used forceful language to agree with the substance of the verdict. Members of the library board exhibited “significant direct evidence of racial animus” against seven members of its white library staff, the judge said. While the librarians’ counsel “did not present evidence that the individual defendants had a history of ‘engaging in the type of illegal discrimination that [they] were found to have committed in this case,’ they presented evidence of a pattern of discrimination by Fulton County against white employees, and a knowledge of that history by the defendants,” Martin wrote in a 74-page order. On Thursday, City Attorney Overtis Hicks “O.V.” Brantley said she was grateful that Martin had reduced the jury verdict. But, she continued, “In my opinion, she did not go far enough.” Brantley said she will appeal the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Brantley declined to address specific statements Martin made regarding library executives’ conduct or the county’s pattern of discrimination against its white employees. “I don’t want to litigate in the press,” she said. “Obviously, we don’t agree with the jury verdict. We think that what Judge Martin did was a step in the right direction to reduce the verdict. … But quite frankly, I believe all the defendants should be vindicated.” Last February, after the jury was dismissed, Brantley called the verdict a “travesty of justice.” She sought a new trial and petitioned Martin to reduce the award significantly. At the time, Brantley said there was “not a scintilla of evidence” to justify the verdict. FOURTH MAJOR BIAS CASE LOSS The suit is the fourth major reverse discrimination case against Fulton County in recent years brought either by white employees or contractors. In three previous cases, federal juries have ruled against the county. In one of those cases, U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. in 1999 ruled the county’s affirmative action program unconstitutional. The county has appealed all three earlier verdicts, vowing to carry them to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. “The plaintiffs are pleased that the verdict, in large part, has been upheld,” Bowers said Thursday. Last January, a federal jury awarded the eight white librarians $23.4 million after the librarians sued, claiming that they had been demoted, stripped of management responsibility, and transferred from the central library downtown to outlying branches because they were white. The women were replaced downtown by black staff members. County attorneys told the jury that the women were reassigned only because more librarians were needed at the branches. Bowers built his case around a paper trail of memos and board meeting minutes that stressed the need for “racial equity” at the library. According to testimony and pleadings in the case, library board member Mary Jameson Ward said there were “too many white faces” in management at the downtown library and board Chairman William McClure once suggested there were “too many old, white women” downtown. DAMAGES ASSESSED INDIVIDUALLY The jury assessed both compensatory and punitive damages against library director Kary K. Hooker; McClure, board vice chairwoman Ward, and Benjamin Jenkins, chairman of the board’s personnel committee. The jury did not find the Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library system as a whole liable, determining that it was neither the system’s policy nor custom to discriminate against white employees. County attorneys had argued that the white librarians who were transferred were not entitled to any damages because they retained a job in the library system, if not their chosen one, and their salaries remained the same as they had been prior to their transfers. Martin disagreed. In denying a motion for a new trial, the judge noted that punitive damages as well as compensatory damages awarded by the jury in the case are “supported by evidence of reprehensible conduct and is not excessive.” As a result, Martin largely let stand the bulk of the compensatory awards as well as punitive damage awards of nearly $2 million for seven of the librarians. ‘INTENTIONAL AFFIRMATIVE CONDUCT’ She did so, she wrote, because McClure, Ward and Hooker “engaged in intentional affirmative conduct by transferring the plaintiffs to lower job duties because of their race, at a time when these defendants were well aware that it was in violation of the law to do so.” Martin also determined that the librarians’ May 2000 transfers to outlying branches with little or no responsibilities was “an adverse employment action.” “Each of these plaintiffs gave detailed testimony that they held management and/or senior positions at the Central Library prior to their May 25, 2000 transfers,” she wrote. “These plaintiffs also testified that when they arrived at their new posts, no defined positions existed and they were ultimately assigned to do entry-level tasks such as clerical and housekeeping duties.” In reducing the damage award, Martin: � Eliminated any damage payments to one of the eight plaintiffs who was transferred to a branch library but given greater responsibilities than she had before. That librarian’s only damage, according to her testimony, had been “great disillusionment” with library executives because of “racial politics and bad management.” � Reduced compensatory cash awards based on back salaries for two librarians, one of whom retired a month after her transfer and another who resigned a year later. Martin determined that their new posts were not so intolerable that they were “compelled to resign,” a ruling that reduced the backpay they had hoped to collect. Martin was careful to note that her ruling “should not be construed as a finding that these plaintiffs did not suffer an adverse employment action.” � Reduced the librarians’ compensatory awards for emotional pain and anguish from $1 million to $500,000 each because “none of the plaintiffs received reduced salaries or benefits from the transfers and reassignments.” � Eliminated punitive damages assessed against board member Jenkins, saying there was “a lack of reprehensible conduct on his part.” Martin upheld the punitive damages assessed against the other defendants. “The jury found that the individual defendants intentionally discriminated against the plaintiffs on the basis of their race,” she wrote. “Further, each individual defendant testified that they knew it was illegal to treat employees differently on account of race.”

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