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Law and Fact

Case: Anderson v. Bessemer City (1985, U.S.) [CB 647-653]

Facts: Anderson filed a suit for sexual discrimination in hiring The district
court found that she had been denied employment because of her sex, and made the
subsidiary factual findings (1) that she was better qualified than the successful
applicant; (2) that male members of Df's selection committee were biased against
her because of her sex; (3) that she was asked questions that other applicants
were spared; and (4) that the reasons offered by the male committee members for
choosing the successful applicant were pretextual. The appellate court reversed,
holding that all but the fourth factual finding of the district court were clearly
erroneous. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issue: Whether an appellate court conduct what amounts to a de novo review in

reviewing the factual findings of the trial court? -No.

Holding: Appellate decision reversed.

Reasoning: A finding of intentional discrimination is a finding of fact which is

governed by FRCP 52(a). Rule 52(a) provides that findings of fact may be reversed
only if they are clearly erroneous. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although
there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court is left with the definite and
firm conviction that a mistake has been committed, after considering the evidence
in its entirety. When there are two permissible views of the evidence, however,
the factfinder's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous.

In this case, the appellate court improperly conducted a de novo weighing of the
evidence in the record. The district court reached its conclusion that Petitioner
was better qualified than the successful applicant based on essentially undisputed
evidence regarding the respective backgrounds of both candidates. The appellate
court reviewed the same evidence, but concluded that the successful applicant was
better qualified. The task of the appellate courts, however, is to question
whether the district court's findings were clearly erroneous. In light of the
record, it cannot be said that the district court's conclusions were clearly
erroneous. Reversed.

RULE: Appellate courts must apply the clearly erroneous standard of review in
reviewing findings of fact.


• Issue: was she denied the position because of her sex? This is an issue of fact
or of law? Fact
• Found for P. on appeal, they reversed. Saying that factual findings were not
persuasive. P had not carried her burden of proving the fact that she was denied
b/c of discrimination.
• Appealed to supreme court - the finding below was erroneous, and it was
• Gave 2 rationales for how they decided this case - look over the case to figure
it out.