Two U.S. Deputy Marshals have filed a $300 million class action lawsuit against the service, accusing the marshals of routinely discriminating against African American deputies.
Deputy U.S. Marshal David Grogan and Chief Deputy Marshal James Brooks say in their
complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia yesterday, that African American deputies face different standards for promotions, awards, special assignments, and training opportunities than their white counterparts. The suit says that the subjective nature of the standards used to allocate promotions allows the service to keep qualified black deputies from advancing.
David Sanford, a partner at Sanford, Wittels and Heisler representing Grogan and Brooks, says the suit is a continuation of an earlier effort to change discriminatory policies within the Marshals Service. Matthew Fogg, an African-American chief deputy marhsal, successfully sued the service for discrimination in 1998. Fogg won a $4 million judgment for his individual complaint, but the class action portion of his suit was dismissed before it went to trial.
Sanford says the new lawsuit is designed to address the discrimination black deputy marshals have faced since the late 1990s.
“When you have an agency that has been sued and has been hit several times in federal court and has been told by a judge that they have a practice of racial discrimination, you would think you would look at your practices and change them. They haven’t done that, for whatever reason,” Sanford says.
According to the complaint, Grogan was allegedly passed over for several promotions and awards despite “his demonstrably excellent job performance.” The jobs he applied for later went to white marshals. Brooks’ portion of the complaint alleges similar mistreatment based on his race.
“This suit is not about accusing people of being racist,” Sanford says. “It’s about determining whether the agency’s practices comport with the law. These are good people trying to do the right thing, but for whatever reason they come up short. The result is that African Americans are not promoted at the same rate.”
Sanford says the $300 million for damages was determined because there could be as many as 1,000 current and former black deputy marshals who have worked with the service since the mid-1990s.
“It’s hard to come up with accurate amount of damages because we don’t know how many people are in the class,” Sanford says. “It’s a thorny legal issue, and it will be up to the judge to determine whether we’ll be allowed to go back that far.”
Dave Turner, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, says the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
"Our policy is not to comment on pending litigation. I can tell you that the U.S. Marshals is aware of the allegations contained in the lawsuit and these allegations do not reflect the culture of this agency nor the high standards to which we hold our employees," Turner says.