Ferguson v. City of Charleston Case Brief

Summary of Ferguson v. City of Charleston


Plaintiff: The ten pregnant women whose urine was used to test cocaine use.

Defendants: City of Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

After seeing the increase use of cocaine use in pregnant patients, MUSC adopted the policy of upon doubt, using the urine of pregnant patients to check cocaine use. If cocaine use is found during tests, the patients will be given the choice of treatment and if the patient does not finish treatment, her tests will be handed over to the DA office for offenses of using cocaine and asserting cocaine in a minor.

Issue: (For this brief) Does the policy of MUSC have disparate impact on the minority African American patients under title VI?

Holding: NO

Key Facts: -In South Carolina, a fetus is considered a person.

-African Americans make up 68% of maternity patients who tested positive for any drugs and they made up 90% of the patients who tested positive for cocaine.

-In order the prevail in disparate impact cases- 1. Plaintiffs must show that a facially neutral practice has a disproportionate impact on the protected group, 2. defendant must show that the challenged practice is a necessity, 3. plaintiff must show an equally effective alternative practice which results in less disparate impact.

Legal Reasoning: Title VI: “No person in United States shall, on the ground of race be subjected to discrimination under any activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Disparate Impact: 1. facially neutral practice has a disproportionate adverse effect on a group. 2. defendant must demonstrate the existence of a substantial legitimate justification for alleged discriminatory practice. 3. other less discriminatory means will serve the same objective.

The plaintiffs argued that since such testing policy was only followed at MUSC and tested only cocaine use, it had disparate impact on African American women. The court rejected the first claim of the plaintiffs. The court decided that since MUSC can not force other hospitals to adopt the same policy, it has no hand in this claim of disparate impact. The court did accept the second argument of the plaintiffs by ruling that the only cocaine test instead of all drug test had disparate impact on the African American women. The court used the 68% vs. 90% statistics to come to its decision and used Supreme court ruling in Connecticut v. Teal which stated: “it is not sufficient for a defendant to show a racial balance at the end of a selection process; rather, the pertinent question for purposes of a disparate impact analysis is whether a given step in the process disproportionately affects members of one race. On the second prong, the court accepted the claims of MUSC that the cocaine use among pregnant mothers was increasing and MUSC’s policy was a necessity. On the third prong, the plaintiffs offered two alternatives: 1. having tests for all type of illegal drugs and alcohol, 2. having all the patients test. The court decided that such practices were prohibitively expensive.

Dissent: (for disparate impact) The plaintiffs did offer good alternatives and the court did not pay much attention to these alternatives. The court, without any good explanation, used the prohibitively expensive excuse to reject the alternatives of the plaintiffs.

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