Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison



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Thanks to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, members of the Port Authority Asian Jade Society, a group of Asian American police officers, finally got some long-awaited justice. This year, after a two-week trial, a federal jury ruled unanimously in favor of the plaintiffs. The Am Law Pro Bono 100The jury found that the Port Authority's promotion practices had a disparate impact on Asian Americans, and that the Port Authority had intentionally discriminated against seven of the 11 officers.

The plaintiffs have waited for this outcome since at least 2001, when they filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), charging that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey systematically passed over Asian Americans for promotions despite their superior qualifications. Moreover, they charged that they had been subjected to racial slurs and harassment on the job.

Karen King, an eighth-year litigation associate, brought the case over to Paul Weiss when she lateraled over from Cravath, Swaine & Moore in 2007. She says she heard about the case from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Paul Weiss partner Susanna Buergel, who worked with King on the matter, says it was a tough case. "Title 7 cases are [generally] very difficult to win," says Buergel. Though there was little evidence of blatant discrimination, all 11 plaintiffs took the stand to tell their own stories of discrimination—and those stories of prejudice were "compelling," says Buergel.

One particularly memorable plaintiff was David Lim, a 9/11 hero who rescued people from the Twin Towers. "He was used as a poster child by the Port Authority," says King, but "he wasn't promoted to the first supervisory position until 2005, after the lawsuit was filed, when he already had 25 years on the job." (Buergel says that some Asian Americans, who were close to retirement, were finally promoted to sergeant only after the EEOC complaint was filed.) Port Authority spokesperson Steve Coleman says the authority will not comment while its posttrial motion to set aside the verdict is pending.

Despite the long road to justice, King says the police officers never gave up on their fight. "They were just very grateful to have help in moving the case forward," says King.

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