Luschenat v. City of New Haven
To obtain a writ of mandamus, a plaintiff may be required to establish a clear legal right to the performance of a duty by the defendant and that the defendant has no discretion, with respect to the performance of that duty. The plaintiffs are 11 New Haven firefighters who took promotion exams. In 2004, the city decided against certification of the exam results, because only one person of color scored high enough on the 2003 exam to obtain a promotion, and the city was concerned about allegations of race discrimination. Previously, in Ricci v. DeStefano, some of the Caucasian firefighters who scored well on the 2003 exam sued the city, alleging that the city discriminated against them, because it failed to certify the 2003 exam results. The Ricci plaintiffs prevailed. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the city could not refuse to certify the exam results, because of the city's concern about minority applicants. The city promoted the 14 Ricci plaintiffs, plus another 10 firefighters who had scored well on the 2003 exam. In 2010, the plaintiff firefighters requested a writ of a mandamus, or an order of injunctive relief, to order the city to certify the 2003 exam results (effective as of November 2009, when the results were published) and to order that the exam results remain valid for at least one year. The court observed that the plaintiff firefighters possessed the option to intervene in Ricci, to protect their rights. The city charter was designed to restrict the amount of time between exams and promotions. Federal law does not require that the city certify the exam results, prospectively or retrospectively. "[T]he City," wrote the District Court, "had the power to treat the 2003 test results as if they had been certified in 2004." The court added, "Given that the City had that power, it did not violate any duty to act otherwise, and a mandamus is inappropriate." The City of New Haven's interpretation of its rules was reasonable, and the court denied the plaintiffs' request for a writ of mandamus, or an order of injunctive relief.