A federal judge has thrown out the claims of six of nine current and former Mesa police officers in a lawsuit alleging the city discriminated against them on the basis of race, gender and religion.
Since scaling back the number of plaintiffs, Judge Susan Bolton last week postponed indefinitely an Aug. 12 trial date while she considers a request to consolidate the case with a companion case that has the same plaintiffs and facts but alleges violations of other laws.
Besides the six plaintiffs Bolton disqualified, one plaintiff dropped out of the case voluntarily, leaving just two for trial. The only issue remaining at trial will be whether Mesa discriminated against Sgt. Pat Foster because he is black and former crime-scene technician Lorelei Delaney because she is a woman, according to court documents.
The nine plaintiffs alleged that the Mesa Police Department had “policies, practices and procedures that result in gender, racial and religious discrimination and disparate treatment” in relation to its transfer and grievance process, according to Bolton’s March 18 ruling. Those involved in the case had said previously that the Mesa Police Department favored white Mormon men.
Bolton dropped some of the plaintiffs because they were unable to show they had a claim against the city. Others were dropped because the statute of limitations had run out. Foster alleges that Mesa discriminated against him in denying several job transfers.
Bolton said Mesa never claimed that Foster wasn’t qualified and in each instance gave the jobs to someone else who was equally qualified. The city maintained that he was not a target of racial bias. “The court finds that a material question of fact exists regarding whether Defendants had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for denying transfers to Foster,” Bolton wrote in her order.
Delaney’s case is really more about retaliation, but Bolton’s order limits it to gender discrimination, plaintiff’s attorney Keith Knowlton said.
The companion case involves discrimination allegations that fall under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The case that has only Foster and Delaney remaining alleges violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The city wanted to delay the trial because its lead attorney isn’t due to return from maternity leave until two days after the scheduled Aug. 12 start, said Rosemary Rosales, an assistant city attorney.
Rosales said the city would likely contest a consolidation of the cases.