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October 1, 2008

Prominent Iranian American Testifies before Senate Committee

Washington, DC- “We have unearthed an anti-plaintiff effect that is troubling,” said Cyrus Mehri in testimony last Tuesday before a Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Barriers to Justice: Examining Equal Pay for Equal Work.” The hearing dealt with different dimensions of federal court discrimination against employee filed lawsuits. Mehri is on the Board of Advisors at NIAC and a founding partner of the law firm Mehri & Skalet, PLLC.

Mehri spoke to the committee about a recent study by Cornell University Law School which listed three troubling findings: the double standard on appeal, a significant drop in employment cases since 1997, and worrisome patterns in outcomes in trial court proceedings. He concluded that these patterns evidence a growing tide of discrimination by federal courts against workers and their lawsuits. Mehri advocated a “fundamental shift that [would] dramatically expand the pool of Judicial nominees…not just diversity in terms of race, gender and other personal traits…diversity in terms of legal expertise and life experiences” in order to remedy this problem. Mehri gave insight into the way the judicial system exists now for those experiencing discrimination saying, “Wrongdoers in effect go scot-free, while workers expecting a level playing field face heart-breaking defeats.”

According to the study, the rate of employer victories overturned in appeals is dwarfed by that of overturned cases where the employee was initially victorious; employer victories have an 8.72% reversal rate compared with employee victories which have a 41.10% reversal rate. Mehri cites the study by Dean Schwab and Professor Clermont in his testimony stating “An appeal reversal disparity that is five to one is indefensible.”Additionally, the numbers of discrimination cases which actually go to court are down from the 1997 numbers by 37%, indicating disillusionment with the system on the part of the workers. Furthermore, the study found that a disparity exists between employer victories in bench cases versus trial cases. In short, employees are more likely to find sympathy for their cases in juries, than in judges. “Federal Courts are hostile towards employee rights” said Nancy Richards-Stower, a civil rights attorney interviewed in the study.

Mehri, an active member in the Iranian-American community, served as legal counsel in the two largest class action race discrimination suites in American history.

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