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Supreme Court of the United States
December 10, 1980, Argued ; February 25, 1981, Decided
[*80] [***62] [**994] JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question presented in this Title VII class action is whether an interlocutory order [**995] of the District Court denying a joint motion of the parties to enter a consent decree containing injunctive relief is an appealable order.
Petitioners, representing a class of present and former black seasonal employees and applicants for employment at the [*81] Richmond Leaf Department of the American Tobacco Co., brought this suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia under 42 U. S. C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. § 2000e et seq. Alleging that respondents 2 had discriminated against them in hiring, promotion, transfer, and training opportunities, petitioners sought a declaratory judgment, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, and money damages.
[****5] After extensive discovery had been conducted and the plaintiff class had been certified, 3 the parties negotiated a settlement and jointly moved the District Court to approve and enter their proposed consent decree. See Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 23 (e). 4 The decree would have required respondents to give hiring and seniority preferences to black employees and to fill one-third of all supervisory positions in the Richmond Leaf Department with qualified blacks. While agreeing to the terms of the decree, respondents "expressly [denied] any violation of . . . any . . . equal employment law, regulation, or order." App. 25a.
[****6] The District Court denied the motion to enter the proposed decree. 446 F.Supp. 780 (1977). Concluding that preferential treatment on the basis of race violated Title VII [***63] and [*82] the Constitution absent a showing of past or present discrimination, and that the facts submitted in support of the decree demonstrated no "vestiges of racial discrimination," id., at 790, the court held that the proposed decree illegally granted racial preferences to the petitioner class. It further declared that even if present or past discrimination had been shown, the decree would be illegal in that it would extend relief to all present and future black employees of the Richmond Leaf Department, not just to actual victims of the alleged discrimination. Id., at 789.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, dismissed petitioners' appeal for want of jurisdiction. 606 F.2d 420 (1979). It held that the District Court's refusal to enter the consent decree was neither a "collateral order" under 28 U. S. C. § 1291, 5 nor an interlocutory order "refusing" an "[injunction]" under [****7] 28 U. S. C. § 1292 (a)(1). 6 Three judges [**996] dissented, concluding that the order refusing to approve the consent decree was appealable under 28 U. S. C. § 1292 (a)(1).
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450 U.S. 79 *; 101 S. Ct. 993 **; 67 L. Ed. 2d 59 ***; 1981 U.S. LEXIS 69 ****; 49 U.S.L.W. 4171; 25 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1; 25 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P31,524; 31 Fed. R. Serv. 2d (Callaghan) 1
CARSON ET AL. v. AMERICAN BRANDS, INC., T/A AMERICAN TOBACCO CO., ET AL.
Prior History: [****1] CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 606 F.2d 420, reversed.
district court, irreparable, consent decree, injunctive relief, injunction, interlocutory order, parties, decree, permanent, settlement, negotiated, employees, terms
Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, Compromise & Settlement, General Overview, Notice of Class Action, Voluntary Dismissals, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Interlocutory Orders, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Altering & Amending Judgments, Entry of Judgments, Consent Decrees, Labor & Employment Law, Affirmative Action, Consent Judgments