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Houston Black Police Officers File Appeal

Friday, December 11, 2009 General News J E 4
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HOUSTON, Dec. 9 -- On December 1, 2009, Attorney Warren Fitzgerald, Jr. and Attorney Ronald G. Ray, Sr. appealed the dismissal of the Plaintiffs case Shelby Stewart et. al. v the City of Houston Police Department, the City of Houston and Chief Harold Hurt. Lead counsel Attorney Warren Fitzgerald of the firm Fitzgerald & Hunt PC and Attorney Athill Muhammad, attorneys of record during the trial phase of the case, brought in Attorney Ronald G. Ray Sr. for purposes of the appeal.

The appellants, Shelby Stewart, Kenneth Perkin, and Raul Collins et. al. are Black officers employed by the City of Houston Police Department ("HPD") and suffer from Pseudofolliculitis Barbe (PFB), a condition that causes severe skin inflammation after shaving that disproportionately afflicts Black men. In 2005, HPD, specifically Chief of Police Harold Hurtt, issued a strict no-beard policy, which stated that all officers were to be clean-shaven enabling them to wear gas masks that were to be issued as part of emergency response. The Plaintiffs were prevented from wearing their uniforms and assigned to a plainclothes job somewhere in HPD and were prevented from working extra duty except in plainclothes. The Plaintiffs were all veteran officers of good standing at the time.

Plaintiffs Stewart, Perkins, Collins and several others filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas alleging that the Houston Police Department committed unlawful employment practice against them.

The District Court granted the City of Houston's Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed all of the Plaintiffs' claims. Attorney Fitzgerald and Attorney Ray have appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on the grounds that the District Court was in error in dismissing the claims and that the Plaintiffs had shown sufficient evidence of discrimination to justify having the case go to a trial before a jury.

This case has major implications not only for the Plaintiffs but for the citizens of Houston as well. According to Attorney Fitzgerald, if allowed to stand, the policy may have a chilling effect on the recruitment and employment of officers of African American descent in the City of Houston at a time when the City needs more qualified officers on the street.

Contact: Attorney Warren Fitzgerald, Jr., 832-331-7270, wfmuhammad@mac.com

SOURCE Attorney Warren Fitzgerald, Jr.

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