Special Master Appointed to Oversee FDNY Hiring

The ongoing saga of the FDNY employment discrimination case took another turn yesterday, when  Federal District Court Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis appointed Robert M. Morgenthau as a special master to address the FDNY’s  hiring practices.

In remarkably blunt terms, Judge Garaufis explained why he appointed Morgenthau, who recently retired after 35 years as the district attorney of Manhattan: “The city does not appear to understand that it already lost this case, and that its obligation now is not to fight tooth and nail against the possibility of change, but to move with alacrity to cure its illegal practices. Put bluntly, the constitutional rights of thousands of its citizens are at stake.”

In January, Judge Garaufis concluded that the city had intentionally discriminated by continuing to use an exam that it knew had a disparate impact on black applicants. Since that time, the judge’s patience with city lawyers has been strained. For example, he threatened to sanction the city after lawyers suddenly produced thousands of documents related to the case more than two years late. In appointing the special master, Garaufis hopes to provide “steady, vigilant, immediate and comprehensive oversight” to effect the needed changes.

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About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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