After five long years, victory in Tyra Hunter case
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After five long years, victory in Tyra Hunter case

Statement by Rick Rosendall, GLAA Public Safety Chair
August 10, 2000, 4:30 p.m.

I have just returned from a press conference in front of the DC Courthouse with Margie Hunter and her attorneys, chiefly Rick Silber. DC Councilmember Harold Brazil also attended.

The city has settled the case with Mrs. Hunter for $1.75 million. This is great news, and means that Mayor Williams has kept the promise he made to us a year ago. In addition to the settlement, the Mayor (who was not at the conference) announced today that the Fire Department's diversity and sensitivity training has been named after Tyra Hunter.

The downside is that the Fire Dept. employee who discriminated against Tyra, and the DC General doctor who committed medical malpractice against her, remain unpunished. Also, we will have to remain vigilant to ensure that the training curriculum and materials are satisfactory. GLAA is already working with the Office of Human Rights and Corporation Counsel to make sure that DCFD is provided with all the appropriate case law covering the DC Human Rights Act, so that their training materials reflect the full range of protected categories under DCHRA and not just the federal categories. Beyond the training itself, we must make sure that the city follows through on the nondiscrimination policy, specifically that the policy is reflected routinely in supervision and evaluation of all DCFD and EMS employees, and that violations are punished.

There is a further policy issue that remains unresolved. The office of the Corporation Counsel continues to argue in other lawsuits, as it did in Hunter, that citizens may not sue the District government for violations of the Human Rights Act without going to the Office of Human Rights first. This legally erroneous stand has been rejected by every judge who has ruled on it, yet the City so far has not budged. It is intolerable that our own government should hold itself above the Human Rights Act while paying lip service to it. Two months ago, I gave Corporation Counsel Robert Rigsby a detailed memo asking him to order his staff to stop making this outrageous claim in court and to withdraw it in cases that are still pending in which it has been made. We are still waiting for a response.

That being said, today is a day for congratulations and thanks to Margie Hunter and to her attorneys — in particular Rick Silber — for seeing this case through to victory. There is nothing more wonderful or humbling to behold than a mother's unconditional love. Her fortitude in the face of legalistic abuse and dilatory tactics is an inspiration. Rick Silber's tenacity and thoroughness in this case have been crucial, and a great service to the people of our city. Our work remains unfinished, but this is a moment for celebration of a hard-won and long-overdue victory.

Thanks also to the witnesses who came forward and made the case possible, and to the good men and women of the jury who served the cause of justice in this case. And Tyra, I'll be raising a glass to you tonight. May this victory be the impetus for us to ensure that no other citizen is ever again treated so disgracefully and cruelly by those who are sworn to protect them.