Saturday, January 12, 2008
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.