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Aug. 10 — Two black Michigan State Police troopers can keep the $5.3 million they were awarded on state law race bias claims after being passed over for forensic science division jobs, a state appeals court held ( Hall v. Nat'l Forensic Sci. Tech. Ctr., Inc. , 2016 BL 257874, Mich. Ct. App., No. 326048, unpublished 8/9/16 ).
Darzeil Hall and Lamarr Johnson presented sufficient evidence to support a Wayne County Circuit Court jury's finding that race was a motivating factor in the decision to remove them from a forensic firearms training program and deny them promotion to specialist sergeant positions, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled.
Hall and Johnson, who sued the MSP, two individual defendants and the National Forensic Science Technology Center Inc., offered proof that they were passed over in favor of a less qualified white trainee, the appeals court said in an unsigned Aug. 9 opinion. NFSTC initially ran the training program, the court noted.
They also showed they were qualified for promotion, despite being booted from the program, because they had each received certificates stating they had completed the training before their ouster, the court added.
The court said a jury had enough evidence to conclude that the MSP's contention that Hall and Johnson were removed from the program for deficiencies in the moot court portion of the training, as memorialized in separate memos prepared by an NFSTC instructor and an MSP captain, was a pretext for bias.
Hall and Johnson both completed the moot court part of the program following remedial training, as shown by their receipt of certificates of completion, and there was testimony that that portion of the training was of “minimal importance,” the court said.
Moreover, both of the memos cited by the defendants were sent after Hall and Johnson had received their certificates, the court said. The timing “strongly suggested” that the memos were just an “after-the-fact” fabrication, it said.
The court also rejected challenges to the amount of damages awarded.
Judges Douglas B. Shapiro, Joel P. Hoekstra and Amy Ronayne Krause joined the opinion.
Mark Granzotto P.C. and Mungo Law Firm PLC represented Hall and Johnson. The Michigan Attorney General's Office; Thomas, DeGrood & Witenoff P.C.; and Mary P. Cauley in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., represented the defendants.
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Text of the opinion is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Hall_v_Natl_Forensic_Sci_Tech_Ctr_Inc_No_326048_2016_BL_257874_Mi.
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