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Appeals court upholds $82K verdict for white attorney in racial discrimination case

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JACKSON, Mississippi — A federal appeals court has upheld an $82,000 award to a white attorney who argued he was a victim of discrimination by the black-majority Greenwood Leflore Hospital board.

George Dulin argued 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. On Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the jury award

The hospital board argued 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 to replace him.

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit found Dulin presented sufficient circumstantial evidence of a racially discriminatory motive in his firing and evidence from which the jury could infer that members of the Greenwood Voters League tried to influence the hospital board.

Court records show 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 argued they put pressure on the board to fire him.

The 5th Circuit panel also said the absence of any earlier criticism of Dulin's work and the manner in which the board selected Dulin's replacement "would suggest to a reasonable juror that the board's claimed reason for terminating Dulin" was racially motivated.

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