Judge OKs Geographic Limits in Court Hiring

     (CN) – The bureaucratic arm of the U.S. court system can use geographic restrictions when making hiring decisions, a federal judge ruled, tossing the lawsuit of a Kentucky woman who said it had infringed on her constitutional right to travel.
     Malla Pollack, who lives in Paducah, Ky., had applied for work as an attorney-adviser with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in April 2009, even though agency specified in the job announcement that it was limiting the applicant pool to individuals living the Washington metropolitan area.
     The Administrative Office rejected Pollack’s application with an automated response that noted she was outside the announced area of consideration.
     Pollack complained to the AO’s human resources department, claiming that the agency’s geographical limitation violated her constitutional right to travel. But the AO said its antidiscrimination policy “prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, political affiliation, marital status, or handicapping condition, but not one’s place of residence.”
     When Pollack sued, the agency moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity and failure to state a claim.
     U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted the motion Wednesday, finding that the AO and director James Duff “did not act outside their statutory authority in establishing ‘areas of consideration’ that geographically limited the applicant pool for the open position.”
     A similar case decided by the Federal Circuit found “that the Office of Personnel Management has the authority to limit a vacancy announcement by geographic region as long as ‘the area of consideration is sufficiently broad to ensure the availability of high quality candidates,'” the nine-page decision states.
     “Plaintiff grounds her opposition on her contention that sovereign immunity simply does not apply to suits alleging constitutional violations, but since she has failed to identify any statutory limit on the AO’s authority to circumscribe the pool of job applicants as it did, the exception to sovereign immunity that she invokes does not apply,” Berman wrote.
     The judge agreed that Pollack had failed to overcome the agency’s sovereign-immunity defense to establish jurisdiction, and she noted that Pollack “failed to plead sufficient factual matter that would ‘allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'”

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