JAMES v. ALMOND Civ. A. No. 2843.
170 F.Supp. 331 (1959)
Ruth Pendleton JAMES, a minor, etc., et al., Plaintiffs, v. J. Lindsay ALMOND, Jr., Governor of Virginia, et al., Defendants.
United States District Court E. D. Virginia, Norfolk Division.
January 19, 1959.
A. S. Harrison, Jr., Atty. Gen., Walter E. Rogers, Richmond, Va., Leonard H. Davis, City Atty., Norfolk, Va., for the City of Norfolk, Va., Leigh D. Williams, and W. R. C. Cocke, Norfolk, Va., for defendants.
Before SOBELOFF and HAYNSWORTH, Circuit Judges, and HOFFMAN, District Judge.
In this action for a preliminary and permanent injunction certain children of the white race, together with their parents, seek to restrain the enforcement, operation and execution of Sections 22-188.3, 22-188.4, 22-188.5, 22-188.6, 22-188.7, 22-188.8, 22-188.9, 22-188.10, 22-188.11, 22-188.12, 22-188.13, 22-188.14, and 22-188.15 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended by the Acts of Assembly, Extra Session, 1956, and the Acts of Assembly, 1958. The statutes in question have been referred to by counsel as the "massive resistance" laws. As stated by defendants in their brief, the statutes are all a part of an overall effort or plan of the General Assembly to deal with the problems created by the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kan.,
The defendants are the Chief Executive and the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as the individual members of the School Board of the City of Norfolk, the Division Superintendent of Schools, and the School Board of the City of Norfolk, Virginia, a body corporate.
As injunctive relief is sought against certain officers of the state, a three-judge district court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281, 2284.
The background of this litigation may be obtained by a casual reference to certain documents introduced in evidence and a study of the proceedings in the case of Beckett v. School Board of City of Norfolk, Virginia, Civil Action No. 2214, which has been pending in this court since May, 1956, and in which numerous orders have been entered and appeals taken
At the conclusion of the numerous proceedings and appeals in Beckett, the matter was again before the district court on the individual applications of 151 Negro children for admission into public schools previously attended solely by white children. The School Board initially denied all applications for admissions as filed by Negro children, assigning as reasons for such action that (1) the presence of one or two Negro children among a large number of white pupils would create among the Negroes an injurious "sense of isolation," (2) the peculiar circumstances would involve "racial conflicts and grave administrative problems," (3) many of the applicants were scholastically not eligible for considerations of transfer, and (4) as to a limited few Negro pupils, while otherwise qualified, they would be subjected to another transfer in September, 1959, because of a new school to be constructed in the area and "too frequent" transfers are not conducive to proper education. The district judge upheld the Board's reasoning in denying requests for transfer as to pupils classified in the latter two groups, but held that a "feeling of isolation" and "possible racial tension" did not constitute sufficient legal grounds to deny admission to the children otherwise qualified. The Board was then requested to reconsider all of the applications and report to the court; the district judge at all times refraining from making any specific assignments. The members of the School Board, acting in compliance with the law of the land as construed by the United States Supreme Court and as fully explained to them by the district judge, finally reported that seventeen Negro children would be assigned to certain public secondary schools of the City of Norfolk which had previously been attended only by children of the white race
As the opening of all public schools in the City of Norfolk had been postponed by action of the School Board until September 29, 1958, in order to obtain a final ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the six schools referred to have never opened for the 1958-59 school year. Since September 27, 1958, the only activity permitted has been such as was specifically authorized by the Governor
What has happened to the 9,900 white children in the interim? Between 4,200 and 4,500 children are enrolled in various tutoring groups being held in private homes and churches, where they are receiving stopgap instruction in certain basic courses under the guidance of teachers; ninety percent of whom are public school teachers under contract to teach in the six closed schools and whose contractual obligations have purportedly been assumed by the State pursuant to § 22-188.14 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended
The plight of the school children and the teaching personnel who would have been in attendance at the six schools has been adequately described as "tragic." Children who would be in their last year of high school are at a loss as to what to do, and those who had planned to attend college are completely frustrated. The value of a high school diploma is freely recognized, even as to such children who may be admitted to college on examination and without a diploma. Children not having reached the twelfth grade are equally uncertain as to their future. While the record does not reflect the reaction of the children attending other public schools in Norfolk now in operation, it is a proper assumption that at least some of these students and their parents must realize that their schools could be closed at any moment.
In this state of confusion the teachers under contract in the closed schools have endeavored to assist as a temporary measure. But they likewise must look to the future. The morale is at a low ebb; they do not know when, if ever, they will resume the noble profession of educating the youth of Virginia, to which they have dedicated their lives. While their contracts are apparently protected until June 30, 1959, they have no assurance that their services will be renewed for the next succeeding school year. Aside from the financial remuneration they receive, the teachers express the desire to teach in public schools—not merely to assist in some private tutoring group. The testimony points to a feeling of unrest and insecurity among all of the teachers; they are here today, but they will undoubtedly be gone tomorrow unless they are assured with respect to the future. If the teachers leave for a more certain field of endeavor, the public of Norfolk will lose and, even if we were to assume that private tutoring groups would and could continue, the teaching source of supply would be so limited that only a scattered number of children could receive this type of education.
In this setting we approach the statutes under consideration. The adult plaintiffs are all taxpayers and citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. With the exception of four adult female plaintiffs, all adult plaintiffs are taxpayers of the City of Norfolk. A portion of the public funds of the state derived from taxation of the adult plaintiffs and other citizens of Virginia is used and applied in the maintenance and operation of the free public school system of Virginia. It is unnecessary for us to discuss the rather complicated formula used by the state in determining the amount allocated for the purpose of public school education in each county and city throughout the state. In some counties the percentage of the total budget for public education received from the state will be as high as seventy percent. In the City of Norfolk the percentage of state contribution is slightly in excess of twenty-three percent. By reason of the large number of federally-connected children in Norfolk, the federal government contributes approximately twelve percent of the total budget of $10,354,406.
We are not unmindful of the difficulties confronting Virginia and other Southern States following the Brown decision of May 17, 1954. It is not for us to pass upon the wisdom of state legislation, but it is our duty to apply constitutional principles in accordance with the decisions of the United States Supreme Court, and when state legislation conflicts with those constitutional principles, state legislation must yield. Irrespective of what may be said by those in public life, we are gratified to note that counsel for the defendants, including the Attorney General of Virginia, concede that the decisions of the United States Supreme Court are not only binding upon this court, but also constitute the law of the land. If there ever existed any room for doubt as to the controlling force of the principles of law enunciated in Brown v. Board of Education,
In Cooper v. Aaron, supra, we find the following apt statement:
Tested by these principles we arrive at the inescapable conclusion that the Commonwealth of Virginia, having accepted and assumed the responsibility of maintaining and operating public schools, cannot act through one of its officers to close one or more public schools in the state solely by reason of the assignment to, or enrollment or presence in, that public school of children of different races or colors, and, at the same time, keep other public schools throughout the state open on a segregated basis. The "equal protection" afforded to all citizens and taxpayers is lacking in such a situation. While the State of Virginia, directly or indirectly, maintains and operates a school system with the use of public funds, or participates by arrangement or otherwise in the management of such a school system, no one public school or grade in Virginia may be closed to avoid the effect of the law of the land as interpreted by the Supreme Court, while the state permits other public schools or grades to remain open at the expense of the taxpayers. In so holding we have considered only the Constitution of the United States as it is unnecessary, in our opinion, to pass upon the specific provisions of the Constitution of Virginia which deal directly with the free public school system of the state. We do not suggest that, aside from the Constitution of Virginia, the state must maintain a public school system. That is a matter for state determination. We merely point out that the closing of a public school, or grade therein, for the reasons heretofore assigned violates the right of a citizen to equal protection of the laws and, as to any child willing to attend a school with a member or members of the opposite race, such a school-closing is a deprivation of due process of law. It follows, therefore, that the defendants must be permanently enjoined from enforcing or attempting to enforce the statutes in question as the same may apply to the public schools of the City of Norfolk.
We need only turn back the pages of history to 1899 to find authority for our statement that these plaintiffs are being denied the equal protection of the laws. When we examine Cumming v. Board of Education of Richmond County,
In the instant proceeding the six schools are closed solely because of resistance to the law of the land as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. The underlying reason is, of course, the mixing of races in these schools by the School Board's assignment of seventeen Negro children into schools previously attended only by white pupils. The plaintiffs thereupon became a class created by reason of the operation of the massive resistance statutes. They, together with the seventeen Negro children, are the subjects of discrimination and are unable to obtain the benefits of public taxation on the same basis as the parents of other children similarly situated. The statutes and the action of the defendants thereunder manifestly constitute a clear and unmistakable disregard of rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
In the event the State of Virginia withdraws from the business of educating its children, and the local governing bodies assume this responsibility, the same principles with respect to equal protection of laws would be controlling as to that particular county or city. While the county or city, directly or indirectly, maintains and operates a school system with the use of public funds, or participates by arrangement or otherwise in the management of such a school system, no one public school or grade in the county or city may be closed to avoid the effect of the law of the land while other public schools or grades remain open at the expense of the taxpayers. Such schemes or devices looking to the cutoff of funds for schools or grades affected by the mixing of races, or the closing or elimination of specific grades in such schools, are evasive tactics which have no standing under the law.
We cannot agree with defendants' argument that the closing of these schools constitutes a "temporary" delay in operation. Defendants presented no evidence and did not suggest when, if ever, the schools would be reopened, or as to what steps, if any, were being taken by the Governor to accomplish this purpose. Indeed, Chapter 68 of the Acts of Assembly, Extra Session, 1956, as amended by the Acts of Assembly, 1958, provides that any school in which children of both races are enrolled shall be closed and shall not be reopened as a public school until, in the opinion of the Governor and after investigation by him, he finds and issues an executive order that (1) "the peace and tranquility of the community in which the school is located will not be disturbed by such school being reopened and operated," and (2) "the assignment of pupils to such school could be accomplished without enforced or compulsory integration of the races therein contrary to the wishes of any child enrolled therein, or of his or her parent or parents, lawful guardian or other custodian." Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended, § 22-188.6. If we were to assume the validity of this statute, it would certainly be chimerical to conclude that the Governor could ever order a reopening of any of the six schools where an effective objection may be registered by any one parent of a child scheduled to attend the school in question. There are a large number of Virginians who are determined that
Nor is any relief afforded by § 22-188.12 of the Code of Virginia, 1950, as amended, wherein it is provided that the closed school or schools shall become a part of the public school system of the political subdivision in which the school is located upon a certificate of the school board and board of supervisors of the county or council of the city. It should be noted that this statute, as originally enacted in 1956, made it mandatory upon the Governor to proclaim the closed school as a part of the public school system of the political subdivision upon certification of either the school board or the local governing body. The amendment to this statute in 1958 effectively closed the door when it vested in the Governor the discretion to make the necessary proclamation by changing the wording "shall so proclaim" to "may so proclaim" and by further providing that both the school board and the governing body of the county or city must join in the certificate addressed to the Governor. Aside from the 1958 amendment, the statute clearly violates the rights of citizens under the equal protection provision of the Fourteenth Amendment. It directly violates the statement in Brown where it is said:
We are told that, because the schools are closed to all alike, both white and colored, there is no discrimination and hence there is no violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. This premise is totally unsound. The discrimination here complained of is the denial of the right of white children to attend public schools which are closed by action of the Governor pursuant to an unconstitutional law enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia, while other white children living in the same state, and within the same political subdivision, are enjoying the educational opportunities afforded them at the expense of all taxpayers, including the parents of the white children locked out of the six schools. We need hardly discuss the factor of race to arrive at the conclusion that this is not equal protection of laws. Equality of treatment is not achieved through indiscriminate imposition of inequalities. Shelley v. Kraemer,
Where a state or local government undertakes to provide public schools, it has the obligation to furnish such education to all in the class eligible therefor on an equal basis. State of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada,
The first contention is that this is an action against the Commonwealth of Virginia and, therefore, cannot be maintained by reason of the provisions of the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which prescribes:
Despite the wording of the amendment, it has been held that the federal courts are without power to entertain a suit by a citizen of a particular state when instituted against the state of the plaintiff's citizenship. Hans v. State of Louisiana,
Defendants readily concede that state officials, including the Governor and Attorney General, are not immune from suit brought to prevent their acting under color of authority, purported to be given to them by an unconstitutional enactment, in such a manner as to infringe the constitutional right of individuals. Sterling v. Constantin,
The test is correctly stated in the recent case of Board of Supervisors of Louisiana State University & Agricultural & Mechanical College v. Ludley, 5 Cir.,
It would perhaps be sufficient to answer defendants' argument by referring to the second Brown decision,
What we have just said is abundant authority for denying the motion to dismiss the School Board as a party defendant, as well as holding that this is not an action against the Commonwealth of Virginia. The School Board may not attempt to enforce these unconstitutional acts any more than the Governor or Attorney General. Neither the Board, the other defendants, nor any persons in active concert or participation with defendants, including, of course, the local governing bodies, may resort to evasive schemes which are discriminatory or are designed to evade the court orders. The Board is clearly a proper and necessary party to the proceeding.
As to the motion to dismiss the Attorney General of Virginia, it is our view that he is also a proper party, although undoubtedly not what may be classified as a necessary party. He is the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth. While he is given no specific statutory duties under the statutes in controversy, he is nevertheless charged with the enforcement of the laws of Virginia. To the end that there will be no misunderstanding of our ruling that the questioned statutes are unconstitutional as in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, we conclude that the Attorney General is a proper party to this proceeding and should be included
An order has this day been signed by the resident judge directing a further hearing for the purpose of considering the form of decree to be entered in this cause.
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