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FIOR D'ALIZA MINETOS v. CITY UNIV. OF NEW YORK

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


May 9, 1996

FIOR D'ALIZA MINETOS, Plaintiff, against CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, HUNTER COLLEGE, PETER BASQUIN, RUTH DEFORD (KOTECHA), L. MICHAEL GRIFFEL, RUSSELL OBERLIN, AND JAMES S. HARRISON, Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: MOTLEY

OPINION

 This case was tried to a jury before this court from October 16, 1995 to October 26, 1995. *fn1" Plaintiff, Fior D'Aliza Minetos, who had worked as an office assistant in the Music Department of Hunter College from 1981 until 1991, charged that: (1) defendants City University of New York and Hunter College had discriminated against her on the basis of her national origin and Hispanic accent in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. sec. 2000(e) et seq.; (2) defendants City University of New York and Hunter College had discriminated against her on the basis of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (the "ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. sec. 621 et seq.; and (3) defendants Peter Basquin, Ruth DeFord (Kotecha), L. Michael Griffel, Russel Oberlin and James S. Harrison had tortiously interfered with her contractual rights in violation of New York State law. The jury found in favor of defendants on plaintiff's Title VII and ADEA claims and this court entered judgment as a matter of law in favor of defendants on plaintiff's state law claim. Plaintiff now moves for a new trial based on this court's finding of Batson error by defendants at the time of jury selection or, in the alternative, for a new trial on her state law claim for tortious interference with contractual relations. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motions are denied.

 I. Background Facts

 Jury selection in this case occurred on October 16, 1995. During this process, plaintiff objected that defendants' peremptory challenges were racially motivated in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 90 L. Ed. 2d 69, 106 S. Ct. 1712 (1986). Tr. 80-81. *fn2" Plaintiff claimed (and this court agreed) that defendants had used three peremptories to exclude two African-Americans and one Hispanic from the prospective jury. After plaintiff's objection, defendants passed on their fourth and final peremptory (as to an alternate juror) and allowed a Hispanic female to sit. This juror was the only minority member of the jury. Plaintiff requested that, in remedy, all excused jurors be recalled and added to the jury. Tr. 85. This court agreed that defendants had committed so-called Batson error, denied plaintiff's request and, at that stage of the proceedings, expressed the view that plaintiff would be entitled to a new trial if the jury found for defendants. Tr. 87. However, the court also noted on the record defendants' objection that plaintiff had used all of her peremptories to strike only white males.

 The trial commenced and, at the end of plaintiff's case, defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50. *fn3" This court reserved decision on defendants' motion and the trial continued. At the conclusion of the trial, special interrogatories were given to the jury, and the jury answered in favor of defendants, in relevant part as follows:

 

Has the plaintiff sustained her burden of proving, by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence, that she was discharged or constructively discharged by defendants?

  1. Hunter College YES 2. Peter Basquin YES 3. James Harrison YES 4. Ruth DeFord YES 5. L. Michael Griffel YES 6. Russell Oberlin YES

19960509

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