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Chicago Teachers Union v. Board of Education of City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 28, 2017

CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION, LOCAL 1, AMERICAN FEDERAL OF TEACHERS, AFL-CIO, TERRI FELLS, LILLIAN EDMONDS, and JOSEPHINE HAMILTON PERRY, individually and on behalf of all similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, a body politic and corporate, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MILTON I. SHADUR SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On April 11 of this year, nearly 4-1/2 years after this action was first brought, plaintiffs Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, American Federal of Teachers, AFL-CIO, Terri Fells, Lillian Edmonds and Josephine Hamilton Perry[1] filed a "Motion for Leave To File Second Amended Complaint and To Clarify the Class Definition" (Dkt. No. 159). That motion has met with vigorous opposition in a bulky submission by defendant Board of Education of the City of Chicago ("Board") (Dkt. No. 161), and issue has now been fully joined by Teachers Union's just-filed response to Board's opposition (Dkt. No. 164). This opinion hastens to rule on the parties' dispute so that the case can go forward.

         In principal part though not entirely, the litigants' quarrel stems from the definition of the putative class as originally designated in the Complaint and certified by this Court on May 22, 2015 (Dkt. No. 96). Here is how that class certification read:

All African American persons whose employment as a tenured teacher or staff member, as defined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education of the City of Chicago, was terminated by the Board of Education pursuant to its "layoff policies" in 2011.

         And because the choice of terminology by Teachers Union's counsel used the word "terminated" in what must be recognized as an awkward sense, the proposed Second Amended Complaint is sought by that counsel to "clarify" the original definition to read:

All African American persons employed as a tenured teacher or staff member, as defined by the collective bargaining agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the Board of Education of the City of Chicago, who received a layoff notice from the Board of Education pursuant to its "layoff policy" in 2011.

         What has emerged from the parties' dispute is a classic illustration of what has caused a line from the movie Cool Hand Luke to become embedded in American speech:

         What we have here is a failure to communicate.

         It is certainly regrettable that counsel on both sides of the "v." sign have not sought assistance from knowledgeable patent lawyers, for if that had been the case a Markman hearing would long since have been teed up for decision, thereby avoiding the current situation in which each side has generated a statistical analysis shaped by its own view. Although this Court faults Teachers Union's counsel for the understandable confusion created by their use of the word "terminated" when it is looked at in isolation, [2] this Court does not write on a clean slate in this area. Instead it has gone back to the parties' Joint Report of Rule 26(f) Conference (Dkt. No. 117), filed last June at the instance of Magistrate Judge Susan Cox, to whom the case had been referred for that purpose. At that time the brief description provided by counsel for the Teachers Union included this statement:

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant used discriminatory processes and factors, including projected student enrollment that disproportionately selected schools in the predominately African American South and West sides of Chicago for layoffs. In turn, Defendant laid off disproportionate numbers of African American teachers and staff.

         In turn Board's counsel provided this brief description:

The class has alleged that layoffs by the Chicago Board of Education at the conclusion of the 2010-2011 school year had a disparate impact on African American members of the Chicago Teachers Union ("CTU").
The Board of Education denies that it discriminated against African American CTU members in the 2011 layoffs, and denies any liability to the Plaintiff class.

         And consistently with those descriptions, the same joint report listed this as a ...


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