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Senate Confirms Appointment of Southern District of New York Judge Denny Chin to Second Circuit Court of Appeals

On April 22, 2010, the United States Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of Southern District of New York Judge Denny Chin to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Chin’s appointment to the Second Circuit is significant for New York labor and employment practitioners because of his extensive experience in the area.

Prior to joining the judiciary, Judge Chin practiced at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., where he practiced in the area of labor and employment law.

He has also co-authored various labor and employment publications, including a law review article, “Moving Beyond McDonnell Douglas: A Simplified Method for Assessing Evidence in Discrimination Cases,” 64 Brooklyn L. Rev. 659 (1998), and the “Lawyers Cooperative Practice Guide: Handling Employment Disputes in New York” (1996). And he has been a panelist at employment law CLEs.

Judge Chin issued several notable labor and employment decisions during his time on the bench. Judge Chin noted a few of them in his responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Questionnaire For Judicial Nominees, including two opinions he wrote while sitting by designation in the Second Circuit, which are described below.

In 2005, Judge Chin ruled that night blindness was a disability for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plaintiff, a former employee of the Department of Sanitation, was allegedly terminated, at least in part, because he suffered from night blindness that prevented him from driving at night. Judge Chin, sitting by designation on a Second Circuit panel, wrote an opinion reversing the district court’s decision, which had granted summary judgment to the employer, and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the position that night blindness is a disability under the ADA. Capobianco v. City of New York, 422 F.3d 47 (2d Cir. 2005).

In 2003, Judge Chin certified a class of approximately 3,500 employees or former employees of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation who claimed that their employer discriminated against them on the basis of race, color and national origin, and then retaliated against any employees who opposed the discriminatory practices. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief as well as damages. The case ultimately settled for substantial equitable relief as well as $12 million in compensation to class members and $9 million in attorneys’ fees and costs. Wright v Stern, 01 Civ. 4437 (DC), 02 Civ. 4699 (DC), 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11589 (S.D.N.Y. July 9, 2003).

In 1997, Judge Chin, again writing for a Second Circuit panel, affirmed a judgment in favor of a plaintiff in an age discrimination case. The plaintiff was terminated after 21 years of service by the New York City Department for the Aging, and was replaced by someone younger, and was also rejected for another position in favor of a younger person. A jury found that the defendants had engaged in age discrimination and retaliation, which ruling the Second Circuit affirmed, holding that there was no error in the admission of evidence, the jury’s findings were supported by the evidence, and the damages of front pay and fringe benefits were reasonable. Stratton v. Dep’t for the Aging for City of New York, 132 F.3d 869 (2d Cir. 1997).

This post was authored by Matt Lampe and Emilie Hendee of Jones Day.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Jones Day or the New York State Bar Association.

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