Daniel Law Blog

Comments on developments in law, arts, entertainment, and business

7th Cir. Reverses Premature Dismissal of Sex Discrimination Claims & Orders Reassignment to Different Judge on Remand

In an opinion by Judge Posner, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of sex discrimination claims and remanded for reassignment to a different district judge "[b]ecause of the abruptness and irregularity of the district judge's handling of this case ... and the unmistakable (and to us incomprehensible) tone of derision that pervades his opinion ...." Stuart v. Local 727, Int'l Brotherhood of Teamsters, No. 14-1710 (7th Cir. Nov. 14, 2014), slip op. 10.

 The district judge had reached out to the plaintiff to force her to respond to Local 727's statute of limitations defense in its answer before discovery and before the union had even filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. 

Plaintiff Stuart is a professional driver of large passenger vehicles in Chicago.  She joined the Teamsters Union and sought to get jobs ferrying equipment and personnel for movie and television productions in Chicago, which paid twice as much as her ordinary bus driving jobs.

Stuart was never referred out for any movie or TV jobs despite the fact that there were many such jobs and she had the same qualifications as the male drivers who were referred for such jobs.  She filed an EEOC claim of discrimination, received a right to sue letter and brought suit.

Defendant union filed an answer which included a defense of statute of limitations, but did not file a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment on the defense and no discovery had been conducted.

Despite that, the district judge had his law clerk obtain plaintiff's EEOC claim (ex parte) and demanded that plaintiff respond to the union's defense of limitations without awaiting a motion by defendant or discovery.  

The 7th Circuit reversed because the district court was wrong in its analysis and application of statute of limitations law and ordered that the case be reassigned to a different judge on remand because the irregular handling of the limitations issue and the derisive tone of the lower court's opinion.