U.S. District Judge Albert V Bryan Jr heard final arguments in the Justice Department's discrimination suit against Fairfax County yesterday following testimony that included an attack on a former county police officer's allegation of prejudicial treatment.
Jack Gould, an attorney representing the county, produced a county police official who took issue with the Justice Department's use of statements by Christopher Stokes, a black former county patrolman described in a Justice pretrial brief as "a former detective with the Richmond Police Department and one of its most decorated police officers."
Justice claimed that Stokes' inability to receive a promotion in the Fairfax Police Department illustrated a pattern of systematic racial discrimination in the county government's hiring and promotion.
maj Thad Hartman of the Fairfax police testified yesterday that Stokes "was not a detective for the Richmond police, nor was he considered to be highly decorated." Stokes' effectiveness "as an officer began to wane, and his work became counterproductive," Hartman said.
Despite numerous objections from Justice attorneys, Judge Bryan allowed testimony from Hartman that Stokes "had shoplifted" between his termination and subsequent application for reemployment on the county force. Under cross-examination, Hartman acknowledged that the alleged shoplifting -- of a magazine from a store owned by a friend -- had never been proved.
The race- and sex-discrimination case being heard by Judge Bryan in Alexandria is a retrial of a suit largely won by the county in April 1979. The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the first decision last July and sent it vack to Bryan, saying it found strong evidence that the county had discriminated against blacks and women.
In the current trial, Justice attorneys recalled expert witnesses to bolster its statistical case against the county's hiring and testing procedures.
In his closing argument, Gould declared: "The courts have taught . . . that planintiffs cannot rely on broad brushstrokes to prove discrimination . . . They're trying to hang us with statistics that aren't refined . . . Justice has been on a fishing expedition in this case all along."
Justice attorney Katherine Ransel countered, saying that an analysis of county data showed "severe disparities in the hiring of blacks in five of eight EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) catagories, and in six of eight categories for women," adding that the statistical analysis employeed by Justice was used in two discrimination suits that went to the U.S .Sumpreme Court.
As the slow-moving proceedings threatened to necessitate a fourth day of testimony, Judge Bruan scolded attorneys for both sides, saying, "This sort of 'you did, you did not' does not become good lawyers . . . I am appalled at such petty nit-picking."