While most pro se cases go the way of all flesh, here’s a rare success story — a former city worker navigates his case through summary judgment, and to a bench trial, a $120K judgment and (all right, with an attorney’s assist) a successful appeal in the Sixth Circuit.
Madden v. Chattanooga City Wide Service, No. 08-5082 (6th Cir. Nov. 25, 2008): How simple can it get. The plaintiff — an African-American crew worker — gets fired for shooting off firecrackers at work while the city tolerates white employees who pull the same stunt. Naturally, nothing is simple in litigation-land, with opposing counsel (abetted now and then by hostile judges) laying traps for you every few yards. But this plaintiff pulled off a successful case, and should now go to law school, join the plaintiffs’ bar and show us how he did it.
A couple of damages issues are notable. First, this is a recent example of an employer which claims that it made an unconditional offer of reinstatement to stop the clock running on back pay, per Ford Motor Co. v. EEOC, 458 U.S. 219, 232 (1982). The panel rejects this argument. Here’s the language from the putative “offer”:
“As a settlement to your previous grievances and EEO charges, the city agrees to reinstate you as a city employee in a department other than the one for which you were previously employed. If this agreement is acceptable by you, you in turn agree to drop all complaints against the City, including your appeal to the . . . city council. This agreement will be  effective immediately by your signature.”
The panel notes the obvious — the offer is not “unconditional,” but is simply a settlement offer conditioned on dropping the lawsuit.
Second, although the district court erred in awarding $52,765 in front pay — two and a half years — without discounting the award to present value, the panel affirms the award on the alternative ground that the judge’s failure to reduce to present value was offset by the failure to consider cost-of-living and other raises that would have come to plaintiff.
Good show, Mr. Madden!