U.S. Supreme Court
Marino v. Ortiz, 484 U.S. 301 (1988)
Marino v. Ortiz
Argued November 30, 1987
Decided January 13, 1988
484 U.S. 301
The New York City Police Department and groups representing various of its minority officers reached a settlement of the groups' employment discrimination suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which settlement was first approved by the District Court on an interim basis and, finally, after a hearing, by consent decree. Although petitioners -- a group of white officers claiming to be adversely affected by the settlement -- presented their objections at the hearing, they chose not to move to intervene either initially as codefendants or later for purposes of appeal, but instead filed suit during the period between the interim approval of the settlement and the final consent decree, claiming a violation of their Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights. In the Marino case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's dismissal of petitioners' suit, deeming it an impermissible collateral attack on a consent decree by persons who could have intervened in the underlying litigation. In the Costello case, the Court of Appeals dismissed petitioners' attempt to appeal from the consent decree because they were not parties to the litigation giving rise to the decree.
1. Insofar as the Court of Appeals' Marino judgment affirmed the District Court's dismissal of petitioners' suit as an impermissible collateral attack by nonparties, that judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.
2. As to the issue raised in Costello, the well-settled general rule that only parties to a lawsuit, or those that properly become parties, may appeal an adverse judgment prohibits petitioners from appealing from the consent decree approving the settlement of the underlying Title VII action. Despite the Court of Appeals' suggestion that an exception to the general rule may exist when a nonparty has an interest that is affected by the trial court's judgment, the better practice is for the nonparty to seek intervention for purposes of appeal.