Court Dismisses Suit Challenging New Haven Fire Lottery

A lawsuit filed by two unsuccessful candidates for the New Haven Fire Department has been dismissed. Tanisha Hill and Michael Terrell Banks filed suit last year alleging that the city’s decision to break a tie of 99 first place candidates by a lottery was illegal.

The 99 first place candidates all scored a perfect 100 on the exam, leaving the city with a dilemma in selecting a 30 person academy. The decision to use a lottery was not without criticism, and at least one other lawsuit challenging the lottery was filed. Here is a link to that story.

As for Hill and Banks, New Haven Superior Court Judge Jon C. Blue concluded that since neither was in the top tier of 99, they lacked standing to challenge the decision. Quoting from the decision (internal citations and quotation marks removed to facilitate reading):

  • To have standing, a complainant must make a colorable claim of direct injury that he has suffered or is likely to suffer, in an individual or representative capacity.
  • Such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy provides the requisite assurance of concrete adverseness and diligent advocacy.
  • The evidence submitted to the court establishes that neither plaintiff suffered direct injury as a result of the lottery system of which they complain.
  • Assuming, without deciding, that a candidate who had placed in Rank One and was not selected by the lottery would have standing to contest the legality of the lottery, neither plaintiff was placed in Rank One.
  • Consequently, neither plaintiff would have benefitted had a completely different system been used to differentiate among the candidates in Rank One.
  • No offer would have been extended to either plaintiff in any event.
  • Under these circumstances, neither plaintiff has legal standing to contest the lottery system of which they complain.
  • The Motion To Dismiss is granted.

Here is a copy of the decision:

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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