Black Michigan State Police Applicants Represented by Nichols Kaster Win on Class Certification at the Michigan Court of Appeals

On July 16, 2020, the Plaintiffs prevailed at the Michigan Court of Appeals in two class actions alleging systemic discrimination in the hiring process for the Michigan State Police. The cases are Bell v. Michigan Civil Service Commission and Carter v. Michigan State Police. The Bell action challenges the state’s Entry-Level Law Enforcement Examination, and the Carter action challenges the use of a subjective pre-screening interview during the application process. Both cases allege that the Defendants’ hiring practices had a disparate impact on Black applicants, causing a significant under-selection of Black applicants compared to White applicants for the positions at issue.

Today, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision to certify two classes in Bell. In reviewing Plaintiffs’ proposed trial strategy the Judges noted that “only those damages appropriate to the class as a whole would be decided at the first stage of trial, and the trial court would be left with the discretion and flexibility to address any individual issues at the second stage” and that “it would not involve over 600 mini-trials.” The Court of Appeals also reversed and remanded the lower court’s decision not to certify the proposed class in Carter “conclud[ing] that whether the framework of the prescreening interview, which allows discretionary ranking based on subjective criteria, discriminates on the basis of race and is not justified by business necessity are questions common to the entire class and appropriate for class-wide determination.” Both cases now return to the Circuit Court and advance to the next stage of litigation.

Nichols Kaster, PLLP proudly represents the applicants along with Leonard Mungo of Mungo Law in greater Detroit, Michigan.