U.S. v. City & County of San Francisco:
The Quest for Diversity in the San Francisco Fire Department

Presented on May 1, 2019

at the Phillip Burton Federal Building & United States Courthouse
San Francisco, California

The San Francisco Fire Department hired no black firefighters before 1955, allowed no women to apply before 1976, and hired no women firefighters until late 1987. Today, the uniformed force includes approximately fifty percent minorities and fifteen percent women — and is led by a female Chief. What is the story behind this dramatic shift in the number of women and minorities in the SFFD?

This discussion of the landmark litigation, and the consent decree that followed, featured The Honorable Marilyn Hall Patel in conversation with the lawyers and firefighters who helped forge the pathway to diversity.


  • Hon. Marilyn Hall Patel (Ret.)
    Chief Judge Emerita, Northern District of California


  • Robert L. Demmons
    Chief, San Francisco Fire Department, 1996-2000
  • Joanne M. Hayes-White
    Chief, San Francisco Fire Department, 2004-present
  • Shauna I. Marshall
    Honorable Raymond L. Sullivan Professor of Law, UC Hastings
  • William McNeill, III
    Former Managing Attorney, Legal Aid Society of San Francisco – Employment Law Center
  • Tamar Pachter
    Supervising Deputy Attorney General, California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General
  • Eva Jefferson Paterson
    President and Co-Founder, Equal Justice Society
  • Louise Renne
    Founding Partner, Renne Public Law Group