Adams v. The City of Montgomery - Maintenance Department
Court's Instructions to the Jury. (ag, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
THE CITY OF MONTGOMERY,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
TO THE JURY
Members of the Jury:
Now that you have heard all of the evidence and the
arguments of the parties, it becomes my duty to explain
to you the rules of law that you must follow and apply in
deciding this case.
When I have finished you will go to
the jury room and begin your discussions–-what we call
In deciding the case, you must follow and apply all
of the law as I explain it to you, whether you agree with
that law or not.
Regardless of any opinion you may have
as to what the law is or ought to be, it would be a
violation of your sworn duty to base your verdict upon
anything other than the evidence in the case.
are not to single out one instruction alone as stating
the law but must consider these instructions as a whole.
You must also not let your decision be influenced in
any way by either sympathy or prejudice for or against
Both the public and the parties expect that you
evidence without prejudice or bias or sympathy, follow
the law as stated by the court, and render a just verdict
regardless of the consequences.
Our system of law does
not permit jurors to be governed by bias, prejudice,
sympathy, or public opinion.
The fact that a governmental entity or agency is
involved as a party must not affect your decision in any
A governmental agency and all other persons stand
equal before the law and must be dealt with as equals in
a court of justice.
When a governmental agency is
involved, of course, it may act only through people as
its employees; and, in general, a governmental agency is
statements of its employees that are made within the
scope of their duties as employees of that governmental
As I have said, you must consider only the evidence-that
exhibits--that I have admitted in the record.
conclusions which reason and common sense lead you to
"Direct evidence" is the testimony of one who
asserts actual knowledge of a fact, such as an eye
"Circumstantial evidence" is proof of a chain
of facts and circumstances tending to prove, or disprove,
an ultimate conclusion.
Remember that what was said during opening statements
and closing arguments is not evidence in the case.
function of such statements and arguments is to point to
those things most significant or most helpful to each
side of the case.
It is your own recollection and
interpretation of the evidence that controls.
said during opening statements and closing arguments is
not binding upon you.
Now, in saying that you must consider all of the
evidence, I do not mean that you must accept all of the
evidence as true or accurate.
You should decide whether
important that testimony was.
In making that decision
you may believe or disbelieve any witness, in whole or in
concerning any particular dispute is not controlling.
In deciding whether you believe or do not believe any
witness I suggest that you ask yourself a few questions:
Did the witness impress you as one who was telling the
Did the witness have any particular reason not to
tell the truth?
Did the witness have a personal interest
in the outcome of the case?
a good memory?
Did the witness seem to have
Did the witness have the opportunity and
Did the witness appear to understand
the questions clearly and answer them directly?
witness's testimony differ from other testimony or other
evidence tending to prove that the witness testified
falsely concerning some important fact; or, whether there
was evidence that at some other time the witness said or
did something, or failed to say or do something, which
was different from the testimony the witness gave before
you during the trial.
You should keep in mind, of course, that a simple
mistake by a witness does not necessarily mean that the
witness was not telling the truth as he or she remembers
it, because people naturally tend to forget some things
or remember other things inaccurately.
So, if a witness
has made a misstatement, you need to consider whether
that misstatement was simply an innocent lapse of memory
or an intentional falsehood; and the significance of that
may depend on whether it has to do with an important fact
or with only an unimportant detail.
Now, this is a civil case, not a criminal case.
of you may know that in a criminal case the burden of
proof is "beyond a reasonable doubt."
This is not the
burden of proof in this case because, as I have said,
this is a civil case.
plaintiff to prove every essential part of his claim by
a "preponderance of the evidence."
This is sometimes
A "preponderance of the evidence" simply
means an amount of evidence that is enough to persuade
you that the plaintiff's claim is more likely true than
In deciding whether any fact has been proved by a
testimony of all of the witnesses, regardless of who may
have called them, and all of the exhibits received in
evidence, regardless of who may have produced them.
If the proof fails to establish any essential part of
the plaintiff's claim by a preponderance of the evidence,
you should find for the defendant as to that claim.
DISCUSSION OF PLAINTIFF’S CLAIMS
The plaintiff in this case is Willie Adams.
the individual who has brought this lawsuit.
Montgomery is the defendant.
you to consider.
The City of
Adams makes two claims for
Claim 1: Race Discrimination
In this case, Adams makes a claim under the federal
conditions of their employment because of the employee’s
disciplined by the City of Montgomery because of his
Adams contends that his race was an impermissible
motivating factor in the September 3, 2008, three-day
actions that were racially motivated: the May 28, 2008,
employee counseling record and ditch-crew transfer; the
May 29, 2008, letter of reprimand; and the August 7,
2008, letter of reprimand.
The court will refer to this
claim as Adams’s race-discrimination claim.
discriminated against in any way and asserts that it has
Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating
“impermissible factor” in an employer’s actions towards
In considering Adams’s race-discrimination claim,
you, the jury, must go through a two-step process.
the first step, you must determine whether Adams has
proved by a preponderance of the evidence that his race
was a motivating factor in the City of Montgomery’s
decision to suspend him even though other factors may
have also motivated the city.
At step one, Adams does
not have to prove that race was the only factor; he must
simply prove that it was a motivating factor.
If he has
failed to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence,
that his race was a motivating factor for the City of
Montgomery’s actions, you should find against Adams and
in favor of the city.
If you find in favor of Adams at step one, you, the
jury, must go to step two.
At step two, you must
determine whether the City of Montgomery has proved by a
suspended Adams even in the absence of any consideration
of his race.
If the city has established this fact by a
preponderance of the evidence, then you should find in
However, if the city has failed to establish this fact by
a preponderance of the evidence, and if you also found in
favor of Adams at step one, then you should find in favor
of Adams in this case.
Therefore, in order for Adams to prevail in his racediscrimination claim, you must find:
First: That Adams has established by a
preponderance of the evidence that his
race was a motivating factor directly in
suspension, or was a motivating factor
in the May 28, 2008, employee counseling
record and ditch-crew transfer, the May
29, 2008, letter of reprimand, the
August 7, 2008, letter of reprimand, as
those decisions factored into the
suspension, even though other factors
may have also motivated the City of
Second: That the City of Montgomery has
failed to establish by a preponderance
of the evidence that it would have
suspended Adams even in the absence of
any consideration of Adams’s race.
Adams has the burden of showing that the City of
Montgomery treated him differently from the way it would
have treated him if he had not been an African-American,
and that the discrimination was intentional rather than
Montgomery’s explanation for why it disciplined Adams,
then you may infer, but not need infer, that the city
intentionally discriminated against Adams because of his
Intentional discrimination does not mean that
Adams must prove that the City of Montgomery disliked
It means only that he must prove that
an employee of a different race would have been treated
differently than he was, and that this difference in
treatment would have resulted from purposeful actions,
not accidental ones.
You are further instructed that an employer has the
right to set the fundamental job requirements of an
employment position and may decide to punish an employee
for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason, so long as
the decision to set the requirements and the decision to
discipline was not because of the employee’s race.
law only requires that an employer make disciplinary
decisions without regard to impermissible factors.
law does not require an employer to extend any special or
Therefore, that you might disagree with
the City of Montgomery’s decision to suspend Adams would
not be a basis, by itself, for finding in favor of Adams.
Instead, in order to find in favor of Adams, you would
have to find that he should prevail under the two-step
process described and discussed above.
Claim 2: Retaliation
Adams alleges that the City of Montgomery retaliated,
previously taken steps seeking to enforce his lawful
rights under federal anti-discrimination statutes.
internal-affairs complaint about race discrimination can
be the basis for a federal retaliation claim.
protected conduct, including the May 28, 2008, internalaffairs complaint and the June 2008 EEOC charge.
retaliatory for engaging in this conduct: the May 28,
The court will refer to these claims as
Adams’s retaliation claims.
You must decide whether each
of these disciplinary actions were retaliatory.
retaliated against in any way and asserts that it has
legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for its disciplinary
In considering Adams’s retaliation claims, you, the
jury, must go through a two-step process.
At the first
step, you must determine whether Adams has proved by a
preponderance of the evidence that his complaints of race
discrimination were a motivating factor for the City of
Montgomery’s disciplinary action.
retaliation, Adams must prove by a preponderance of the
First: That he engaged in statutorily
protected activity, that is, that he in
reasonable claims or complaints of
discrimination prohibited by federal
Second: That an adverse
action then occurred;
Third: That the adverse employment
action was causally related to Adams’s
statutorily protected activities; and
Fourth: That he suffered damages as a
proximate or legal result of such
adverse employment action.
retaliatory action being taken against an employee by an
employer because the employee has asserted rights or made
complaints under those laws.
So, even if a complaint of
discrimination against an employer is later found to be
penalized in retaliation for having made such a complaint
if you find that the employee made the complaint as a
means of seeking to enforce what the employee believed in
good faith to be his lawful rights.
The city does not
challenge that Adams’s complaints were brought in good
For an adverse employment action to be “causally
related” to the statutorily protected activities it must
adverse employment action would not have occurred.
protected activity was a substantial, motivating cause
On the other hand, it is not necessary for Adams to
prove that his internal-affairs complaint or the EEOC
charge was the sole or exclusive reason for the City of
It is sufficient if Adams proves
determinative consideration that made a difference in the
City of Montgomery’s decision.
applicable to this case requires only that an employer
not retaliate against an employee because the employee
has engaged in statutorily protected activity.
So far as
discipline or otherwise adversely affect an employee for
any other reason, good or bad, fair or unfair, and you
must not second guess that decision or substitute your
own judgment for that of the City of Montgomery even
though you personally would not approve of the action
If you find in Adams’s favor at step one, you, the
jury, must go to step two.
At step two, you must decide
preponderance of the evidence that Adams would have been
disciplined for other reasons even in the absence of the
statutorily protected activity.
If you find that Adams
would have been disciplined for reasons apart from the
statutorily protected activity, then your verdict should
be for the City of Montgomery.
Montgomery on any one or more of his claims, you must
then decide the issue of Adams’s damages.
Of course, if
you find that Adams has not succeeded on any of his
claims, you need not consider damages at all.
damages to be the proximate or legal result of a wrongful
act, it must be shown that, except for that wrongful act,
such damages would not have occurred.
Adams seeks “compensatory” damages from the City of
I will now discuss with you the standard for
awarding compensatory damages.
instructed that you should assess the amount you find to
be justified by a preponderance of the evidence as full,
just, and reasonable compensation for all of Adams’s
damages, no more and no less.
Compensatory damages are
not allowed as a punishment and must not be imposed or
increased to penalize the City of Montgomery.
compensatory damages must not be based on speculation or
guesswork because it is only actual damages that are
On the other hand, compensatory damages are not
restricted to actual loss of time or money; they cover
both the mental and physical aspects of injury–-tangible
Thus, no evidence of the value of such
intangible things as emotional and mental anguish need be
In that respect it is not value you are
trying to determine, but an amount that will fairly
compensate Adams for those claims of damage.
There is no
exact standard to be applied; any such award should be
fair and just in light of the evidence.
You should consider the following elements of damage,
to the extent you find them proved by a preponderance of
the evidence, and no others: (1) net lost wages and
benefits to the date of this trial; and (2) emotional
pain and mental anguish.
concerning the issue of damages should not be interpreted
in any way as an indication that I believe Adams should
or should not prevail.
Any verdict you reach in the jury room must be
In other words, to return a verdict you must
Your deliberations will be secret; you will
never have to explain your verdict to anyone.
It is your duty as jurors to discuss the case with
one another in an effort to reach agreement if you can do
Each of you must decide the case for yourself, but
only after full consideration of the evidence with the
other members of the jury.
While you are discussing the
case do not hesitate to re-examine your own opinion and
change your mind if you become convinced that you were
But do not give up your honest beliefs solely
because the others think differently or merely to get the
case over with.
Remember, that in a very real way you are judges-judges of the facts.
Your only interest is to seek the
truth from the evidence in the case.
When you go to the
jury room you should first select one of your members to
act as your foreperson.
The foreperson will preside over
your deliberations and will speak for you here in court.
If you should desire to communicate with me at any
time, please write down your message or question and pass
I will then respond as promptly as possible,
either in writing or by having you returned to the
courtroom so that I can address you orally.
you, however, with regard to any message or question you
might send, that if there is a numerical division among
the jurors, you are not to advise me as to such division.
You will take the verdict form to the jury
room and when you have reached unanimous agreement you
will have your foreperson fill in the verdict form, date
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