The City of Atlanta will get another chance to explain its shameful dumping of an HIV-positive police applicant now that an appeals court punted the case back to a lower court.
The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday remanded Roe V. City of Atlanta back to a district court in a four-page ruling, saying that a handful of issues need to be addressed.
• The district court ruled that Roe failed to prove he is not a “direct threat” to the health and safety of others, yet ignored that the City itself argued that it did not consider HIV to be a disqualifying condition for police officer applicants.
“However, the City never limited its position with respect to HIV status so as to be medically disqualifying for some people,” the federal appeals court said. “We hold that the City’s admission, at the very least, lulled Roe into believing that he need not adduce evidence to distinguish his HIV status as non-serious, and that Roe is entitled to further evidentiary development in this regard.”
• The district court failed to address Roe’s argument that the City violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring a medical exam without a conditional offer of employment.
• The district court ruled that the city did not raise the issue of qualifications beyond its argument that HIV means Roe poses a “direct threat.” Yet, the court cited that in its summary judgment, which it can’t do without first notifying both sides in the case.
The appeals court heard arguments in the case on Jan. 25. The man, identified by the pseudonym Richard Roe, lost the first round of the lawsuit in federal court when the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted a summary judgment in the city’s favor. Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit after Roe’s application was rejected in 2006.
UPDATE: Lamba Legal, which filed the appeal, calls the ruling a victory. “This is a great victory for Lambda Legal’s client who will now get his chance in court to show how the APD’s refusal to hire him was discriminatory and illegal,” says Scott Schoettes, Lambda Legal’s HIV Project Director. “Before the appellate court, the City of Atlanta admitted that there are already HIV-positive police officers serving on the force; now they need to explain why our client should be treated any differently.”