A federal appeals court upheld the firing of a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. worker, ruling it was OK for the company to dismiss the only black jurors in the former worker’s lawsuit for wrongful dismissal.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that BG&E had “racially neutral” reasons for striking the jurors.
Garry O. Davis, a former overhead linesman with BG&E, had claimed he was fired in 1993 after he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Davis is black.
While it upheld the decision of the district court, however, the appellate court judges said they were distressed by U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Young’s handling of the jury selection process.
“We fear that the trial judge’s breach … threatens to tarnish the court’s integrity,” said the appeals court opinion.
Their concern stemmed from Young’s response to a request by Davis’ attorney, asking BG&E for racially neutral reasons for its strikes. According to court documents, Young responded that the company can “strike whoever they want. They strike just like you have.”
Young denied the plaintiff’s motion, but BG&E then voluntarily offered its reasons.
The company’s attorneys said they dismissed one potential juror because he worked for a large organization, and they did not want jurors who could find themselves in work situations similar to Davis’.
They dismissed the second juror because he had a “blank profile” and they “did not want to take chances with him.” Barbara Gaughan, an attorney for BG&E, said Tuesday that the company’s attorneys did not have much more information on that potential juror than his name.
But Davis’ attorney, Steven J. Potter, said Tuesday that there were other jurors who were not dismissed, even though they worked for large organizations. And he said the “blank-profile” juror did not fill out much information because he was unemployed, unmarried and 67 years old.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” Potter said of the appeals court ruling.
Gaughan said BG&E was “pleased with the outcome.”
“We made sure that the jury was selected fairly,” she said.
BG&E said that Davis, who worked for the company for 12 years, was discharged because he refused to perform a work assignment and because he had a record of poor performance.