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Carson v. American Brands, Inc.

    Citation450 U.S. 79
    450 U.S. 79

    Brief Fact Summary. Carson is a class of former and present black employees and applicants of the Defendant which are alleging discrimination.

     

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. An exception to the final judgment rule is that an interlocutory appeal that has serious and irreparable consequences will be appealable.

     

    Facts. Former and present employees and applicants filed suit against the Richmond Leaf Department of the America Tobacco Co. The suit stated there was discrimination in hiring, promotions, transfer, and training opportunities. During the discovery process the two parties agreed on consent decree which stated there was no violation of equal protection and that Richmond would give hiring and seniority preferences to black employee and fill one-third of supervisory positions for black employees. The District court denied the motion stating it created preferential treatment on the basis of race which violated Title VII of the constitution. Also that the plaintiffs would need to show past or present discrimination and the issue was the decree would benefit not just actual victims but all black employees. The Appeals court stated it was not an appealable order. The parties filed a writ of certiorari which the court accepted.

     

    Issue. Whether an interlocutory order of the District Court denying a joint motion of the parties to enter a consent decree containing injunctive relief is an appealable order.

    Held. Yes. When two parties wish to compromise and find an agreement, the court should allow this. The possible repercussion of not allowing such settlement between parties is so perverse that immediate appeal is the only appropriate remedy. Under the final judgment rule, parties may not appeal a decision of the court until a final judgment has been made. The Court has only allowed very narrow exceptions to that rule. One is interlocutory orders of district courts that grant, continue, modify, refuse or dissolve injunctions. Injunction decisions can cause serious and irreparable harm to parties; this is why appeals are allowed. While the denying of the consent decree is not an interlocutory order, it is much alike one because it is denying the parties ability to enter into an injunction which will benefit the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs show the irreparable harm because they must continue to work for Richmond without any effectual change to help their cause until the court finishes its review of the case.

    Dissent.  

     

    Concurrence.  

     

    Discussion. Courts should favor consent decrees because they allow the parties bargaining powers and the ability to compromise, and it allows the parties to avoid the cost of continued litigation.


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