Wednesday, July 24, 2013
State parole agent to get new jury trial on reverse-discrimination claim
A white parole agent who sued the state claiming he lost a promotion to a less qualified African-American parole agent because of race should have a second chance to prove his case, a state appeals court ruled. The case was filed by agent Philip Andrew Mounts, who is white, against the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The corrections department promoted Ronnie Sims, a black parole agent, as the supervisor for the high-risk sex-offender unit in 2008, the position Mounts wanted. Mounts claimed that he was the more experienced candidate, having spent many years as a sex-crime detective and his previous assignment to a parole unit that supervised high-risk sex offenders. Mounts argued that Sims lacked his knowledge and was chosen because of his race. Corrections administrators said that Mounts was not the right fit and that race was not considered when Sims was hired. A Fresno County Superior Court jury in 2011 rejected Mounts' reverse-discrimination claim. But a three-justice panel from the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Fresno reversed the jury's decision and sent the case back for retrial. The appellate panel noted that the jury found race was a factor in the promotion decision, but that jurors concluded the state had other reasons to promote Sims instead of Mounts. The justices found the jury likely was misled by a special verdict form put forward by the state's attorneys, and might have reached a different conclusion if it had received more thorough jury instructions. Monrae English, Mounts' attorney, said "We are pleased with the decision. We look forward to presenting the case to a new jury in proving that race was the motivating factor in CDCR not promoting Mounts."
Dana Simas, spokeswoman for the CDCR, said the department received word of the decision and is preparing for a retrial.