JACKSON, Mississippi — The majority-black Greenwood Leflore Hospital Board is appealing an $82,000 award to a white attorney who argued he was a victim of discrimination.
George Dulin claims he was pushed out of his job as the hospital board's attorney in 2006 because of his race. He was awarded $82,000 by a federal jury in Aberdeen, Mississippi, in 2012.
The hospital board is asking the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a new trial. A three-judge panel will hear arguments Dec. 4 in New Orleans.
The hospital board argues the decision was related to Dulin's job performance and alleges that he nodded off during meetings and provided bad legal advice. Three members of the hospital board were black, but all five members voted to replace Dulin.
Dulin said the board did not complain about his work until after he was fired.
Court records show Dulin served as the board's attorney for 20 years before he was fired at age 86. The board later hired a black attorney, W.M. Sanders, to replace him.
Three black politicians — Leflore County Supervisor Robert Moore, state Rep. Willie Perkins and state Sen. and Greenwood City Councilman David Jordan — had advocated for Dulin to be removed and replaced with a black attorney during a Greenwood Voters League meeting a year before Dulin was fired. Dulin claimed they put pressure on the board to fire him.
"Dulin presented no evidence to support this allegation. In fact, each board member affirmed that the Voters League has no power of influence over them; and the Voters League meeting had no bearing on their decisions to replace Dulin," the hospital argues in court documents.
The hospital is jointly owned by the city and county, and the City Council and Board of Supervisors appoint the hospital board. Both the council and the board of supervisors have a majority of black members.
In court briefs, the hospital board argues the jury was presented with a videotape of the meeting where Dulin was fired and heard testimony from each member of the board as to his dissatisfaction with Dulin. The board argues the evidence does not support the jury's verdict.
"Dulin presented no evidence to ... rebut the evidence presented by the board in testimony and in the audio tape. Furthermore, Dulin presented no evidence that a majority of the board was motivated by race," the board said.
Dulin argues the fact that Moore, Perkins, and Jordan had a voice in selecting hospital board members "is simply one piece of circumstantial evidence from which a jury could find the hospital board was likely to be subject to their influence."
Dulin also said the audiotape of the board meeting "is not conclusive evidence of non-discrimination."
Dulin argued that he had much more legal experience than the attorney who replaced him.
"Thus, the jury could have believed defendants' after-the-fact justifications were only a pretext for honoring the black leaders' desire for a black attorney," Dulin said in court documents.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock dismissed Dulin's lawsuit halfway through a first trial in 2010, but the 5th Circuit in 2011 reversed Aycock's decision and ordered another trial.