Saturday, January 12, 2008

First Circuit Immunizes Racial Profiling by Airlines

Public Citizen released the following Statement of Michael Kirkpatrick, Attorney, Public Citizen about a First Circuit decision:

"In a decision released Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston has given air carriers a license to discriminate against passengers based upon their race or ethnicity.

In writing that safety takes precedence over civil rights, the court put its stamp of approval on racial profiling. We believe this decision opens the door for airlines to arbitrarily violate the rights of passengers.

The case, Cerqueira v. American Airlines, was brought by a passenger who was removed from an American Airlines flight, detained and questioned by the police, and refused service even after the police cleared him for travel. In January 2007, a jury found that the airline had discriminated against John D. Cerqueira because of his “Middle Eastern” appearance and awarded him $400,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The appellate court set aside the jury’s verdict, holding that a federal statute granting airlines the discretion to refuse passengers for safety reasons immunizes airlines from liability under the nation’s civil rights laws, even if the airline’s safety concerns are the product of racial profiling."

Click here for a copy of the decision.

KJ

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2008/01/first-circuit-i.html

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Cerqueira v. American Airlines, 07-1824. The plaintiff alleged that he was removed from an airplane because of his race (or, from the captain’s perspective, an “odd exchange.”) He sued and won a jury verdict (including punitive damages) under 42 U.S.C.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 12, 2008 8:36:34 PM

Comments

I read the opinion and did not see anything that indicated that the Captain's decision was motivated by race. Of course, an appellate court is free to characterize the record as it sees it. Nonetheless, it appears that the trial court failed to give a proper instruction to the jury.

I am curious to know if the other two passengers who were removed from the flight also filed suit, and if so, the result, and if not, why not.

I do not read the opinion as authorizing racial profiling, but then again, I don't live in the People's Republic of Mass. I have a dark olive complexion, and look as if I may be from: Mexico, Egypt, Italy, Israel, or the "middle east." Take your pick. I have been stopped, but more frequently, have not been stopped. Seems to be random. I know, I just haven't really understood the conspiracy to harass people.
I do know that in this time, it is foolish to engage in boorish and inappropriate behavior where airline travel is concerned. And that is what this episode seems to be about. I am not interested in being on a plane with someone who thinks it might be a good idea to open an exit door while the plane is flying, just as a joke, or even making such comments as a joke.
But, having practiced law for 40 years, I have ceased to be amazed by a person's behavior which is totally opposite of proper behavior.

Posted by: Ronald D. Krelstein | Jan 24, 2008 12:33:08 PM

I agree with you when you say it "is foolish to engage in boorish and inappropriate behavior where airline travel is concerned." You go on to say "And that is what this episode seems to be about. I am not interested in being on a plane with someone who thinks it might be a good idea to open an exit door while the plane is flying, just as a joke, or even making such comments as a joke"
You are offering your opinion in a public forum with extremely little information about what happened during this incident. For example, from the moment I got on the plane until the moment I was escorted off the plane by law enforcement, I did not say one word to anyone on the plane. Allow me to repeat that, not one word.
I also agree that air travel safety is of utmost importance. I feel no one can say that more earnestly than I, as I travel more than many airline employees. That said, please note that American Airlines denied me rebooking after they had taken all passengers off the plane and rescreened them, after they had taken all bags off the plane and had them security cleared, after even having brought on bomb sniffing dogs. Then and only after all that, the airplane left on its trip. After the plane had left the airport, law enforcement released me for travel and brought me to American Airlines to tell them I was cleared to travel, at which time I was denied service again.
One final piece of information I would like to share regarding is the two other passengers. I had nothing to do with them other than the fact that the three of us sat in our assigned seats, which happened to be next to each other.

Posted by: John Cerqueira | Jun 15, 2009 5:17:16 PM

Facility of pardon is an incentive to crime.

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