the disparate impact test by Andrew Hart
February 17, 2010, 1:55 am
Filed under: history, law

I’m dreading my undergraduate research right now, so how about I post a little summary of part of it.

Griggs v. Duke Power is a landmark 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case.  It is perhaps the foundational case in the interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The case centers on a policy of Duke Power Company for internal promotions.  The company required all employees transferring out of the lowest-paying department to have a high school degree, and to pass two aptitude tests.  Willie Griggs filed suit on behalf of many black employees of Duke Power, asserting that the tests discriminated against African American employees.

The Supreme Court reversed the finding for Duke Power at the District Court of Appeals.  The Court argued that the aptitude test and educational requirements were not job-related, and that they had the effect of halting promotions of a disproportionate number of black workers.

This finding ushered in the “disparate impact” test for Title VII law.  This test prevents employers from using what appear to be neutral measures, such as educational requirements or aptitude tests, that have a disproportional impact on a protected minority under Title VII.  Employees must show that tests have a legitimate work-related function; in the case of Griggs, Duke Power could not show this legitimate function.

The Court signaled in the Griggs decision that it would read Title VII broadly.  It set up a test that allowed broad latitude for plaintiffs to bring suit against companies for more than just overt discrimination.  It also gave teeth to the federal regulatory commission created by Title VII, the EEOC.  Under the disparate impact test, the EEOC could use statistical data from employment practices to bring suit against employers.  Even if individuals were not aware that they were the subject of discrimination, the Griggs decision allowed the EEOC to prosecute employers engaging in discriminatory practices.


Gilliam v. Commissioner by axeloxenstierna
February 3, 2009, 12:41 am
Filed under: art, law

United States Tax Court



Gilliam is, and was at all material periods, a noted artist. His works have been exhibited in numerous art galleries throughout the United States and Europe, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Karl Solway Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio; the Phoenix Gallery, San Francisco, California; and the University of California, Irvine, California. His works have also been exhibited and sold at the Fendrick Gallery, Washington, D.C. In addition, Gilliam is, and was at all material periods, a teacher of art. On occasion, Gilliam lectured and taught art at various institutions.

Gilliam accepted an invitation to lecture and teach for a week at the Memphis Academy of Arts in Memphis, Tennessee. On Sunday, February 23, 1975, he flew to Memphis to fulfill this business obligation.

About one and one-half hours after the airplane departed Washington National Airport, Gilliam began to act in an irrational manner. He talked of bizarre events and had difficulty in speaking. According to some witnesses, he appeared to be airsick and held his head. Gilliam began to feel trapped, anxious, disoriented, and very agitated. Gilliam said that the plane was going to crash and that he wanted a life raft. Gilliam entered the aisle and, while going from one end of the airplane to the other, he tried to exit from three different doors. Then Gilliam struck Seiji Nakamura, another passenger, several times with a telephone receiver. Nakamura was seated toward the rear of the airplane, near one of the exits. Gilliam also threatened the navigator and a stewardess, called for help, and cried. As a result of the attack, Nakamura sustained a one-inch laceration above his left eyebrow which required four sutures. Nakamura also suffered ecchymosis of the left arm and pains in his left wrist.

On arriving in Memphis, Gilliam was arrested by Federal officials. On March 10, 1975, Gilliam was indicted. He was brought to trial. Gilliam paid $8,250 and $8,600 for legal fees in 1975 and 1976.

Gilliam contends that he is entitled to deduct the amounts paid in defense of the criminal prosecution and in settlement of the related civil claim under section 162, as an ordinary expenses of Gilliam’s trades or businesses.


Needless to say, the Tax Court found that Gilliam’s expenses were not necessary business expenses. The Court held that “In order for the expense to be deductible by a taxpayer, it must be an ordinary expense, it must be a necessary expense, and it must be an expense of carrying on the taxpayer’s trade or business”. It distinguished the Gilliam case from another case where a driver could deduct the costs of dealing with a hit-and-run accident by noting that accidents are a necessary part of driving, while air rage is not a necessary part of air travel.


Here are some paintings by Mr. Gilliam:

Livery of Seisin by axeloxenstierna
January 27, 2009, 12:00 am
Filed under: history, law

Medieval English law allowed for several methods for transferring interest in land from one person to another. However, if you wanted to transfer complete and full interest in land to another person, there was only one way: the ceremony of livery of seisin.

The ceremony was simple. The transferor and the transferee would go onto the land being transfered and symbolically pass part of the land from the old owner to the new owner. Recorded ways of doing this include cutting a piece of turf out of the land and handing it to the new owner, or, more frequently, poking the new owner with a twig from the property.

Sometimes, a little rhyme was said during the ceremony. One such rhyme has been recorded for us:

This turf and twig I give to thee /
as free as Aethelstan gave to me /
and I hope a loving brother thou wilt be.

This was also called livery by deed, because the physical act of poking with the twig and saying the rhyme was a “deed” in the literal sense. Our current usage of “deed” as a document signifying transfer of land comes from the fact that a witness would have to sign a document saying that they saw the “deed” of Livery of Seisin being performed. Eventually, the ceremony became unpopular, and only a signed document became required to transfer property — but the term “deed” stuck.