Civil Procedure II, Pages 701–705

Anderson v. Bessemer City

Supreme Court of the United States, 1985

Facts:

Defendant was hiring a new recreation director and interviewed eight candidates, seven of them male and one the female plaintiff. Defendant hired one of the men, Kincaid, instead of plaintiff. Plaintiff then sued for gender discrimination.

Procedural History:

The trial court found that plaintiff had been denied employment due to her sex because she was better qualified, one of the committee members testified that it would be hard for a woman, she was asked about her husband's thoughts on her working nights, and that the reasons given for her non-employment were pretextual. The trial court rejected defendant's argument that Kincaid's degree in physical education justified his choice as evidence showed that experience was valued more than education.

The Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that district court's findings were clearly erroneous.

Issue:

Was the district court's finding clearly erroneous?

Rules:

  • FRCP 52(a)

    Findings of fact shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses.

  • LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 703

    Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the factfinder's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous.

    This is so even when the district court's findings do not rest on credibility determinations, but are based instead on physical or documentary evidence or inferences from other facts.

Reasoning:

It is the trial judge's judge to make determinations of fact, and he is more experienced at this task.

Either court's interpretation is logical and plausible. However, the district court's must have been found to be clearly erroneous; it is not enough just for the circuit court to have a different interpretation. Defendant's basis that plaintiff was subjected to extra questioning was not clearly erroneous, so neither is their finding of bias.

Holding:

The district court's finding was not clearly erroneous. Reversed.

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