148 F.Supp. 430 (E.D.Va. 1957), Civ. A. 489, Adkins v. School Bd. of City of Newport News

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 489
Citation:148 F.Supp. 430
Party Name:Adkins v. School Bd. of City of Newport News
Case Date:January 11, 1957
Court:United States District Courts, 4th Circuit, Eastern District of Virginia

Page 430

148 F.Supp. 430 (E.D.Va. 1957)

Jerome A. ADKINS et al., Plaintiffs,



Leola Pearl BECKETT et al., Plaintiffs,



Civ. A. Nos. 489, 2214.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division (No. 489) Norfolk Division (No. 2214).

Jan. 11, 1957.

Page 431

W. Hale Thompson, Philip S. Walker, Newport News, Va., Spottswood W. Robinson, III and Oliver W. Hill, Richmond, Va., Victor J. Ashe, Norfolk, Va., for Jerome A. Adkins and others.

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Harry L. Nachman, City Atty., Newport News, Va., J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., Atty. Gen. of Virginia, Henry T. Wickham, Sp. Asst. to Atty. Gen., T. Justin Moore, Archibald G. Robertson, John W. Riely and T. Justin Moore, Jr., Richmond, Va., for School Board of City of Newport News, Va. No. 2214:

Victor J. Ashe and J. Hugo Madison, Norfolk, Va., Spottswood W. Robinson, III and Oliver W. Hill, Richmond, Va., for Leola Pearl Beckett and others.

Leigh D. Williams, Leonard H. Davis, City Atty. for City of Norfolk and W.R.C. Cocke, Norfolk, Va., J. Lindsay Almond, Jr., Atty. Gen. of Virginia, Henry T. Wickham, Sp. Asst. to the Atty. Gen., for School Board of City of Norfolk, Va.

HOFFMAN, District Judge.

In identical class actions certain Negro children and their parents, or others who stand in loco parentis, have instituted these suits seeking the guidance and assistance of this Court to require the defendants 1 to cease and desist from the policy, practice, custom and usage of denying the infant plaintiffs, solely by reason of their race or color, admission to and education in any public school operated solely for children of the white race; and requiring the infant plaintiffs, solely because of their race or color, to attend public schools operated exclusively for Negro children.

In identical answers 2 defendants originally filed motions to dismiss the actions on the following grounds:

(a) The School Boards allege that they are agencies of the State of Virginia and the State has not given its consent to be sued;

(b) The Division Superintendents allege that the respective complaints fail to state a claim against them upon which relief can be granted; and

(c) The Court lacks jurisdiction and the proceedings involve no case or controversy upon which relief should be granted.

At a pre-trial conference in the Newport News case held on the 2nd day of July, 1956, the Court took cognizance of the fact that the Governor of Virginia had declared his intention to convene the General Assembly of Virginia in Special Session not later than September 6, 1956, to enact certain legislation dealing with the problems involving public education following the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873, and Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294, 75 S.Ct. 753, 99 L.Ed. 1083, as well as other related School Segregation Cases. An order was entered 3 permitting counsel for all parties to file such additional pleadings and such amendments of pleadings as counsel desired; the filing date to be within 20 days after the enactment of any public school legislation by the General Assembly of Virginia, regardless of the effective date of such law.

Within the time specified by the Court's order, defendants filed supplemental motions to dismiss which are identical in each case. The basis of the supplemental motions is that the plaintiffs have not exhausted the administrative remedies allegedly afforded them by Chapter 70 of the Acts of Assembly for the Extra Session of 1956. On November 17, 1956, the Court heard extensive arguments 4 in both cases on the motions to dismiss. In short, plaintiffs concede that they have not attempted to exhaust the alleged administrative remedies provided under the aforementioned

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Chapter 70; nor do they intend to do so as it is their contention that Chapter 70 is unconstitutional on its face as contrasted with being unconstitutional in its application. While the Act which is the subject matter of this controversy did not become effective until December 28, 1956, counsel agreed that the argument on November 17, 1956, would be treated as though the Act was effective, and the Court would defer its decision until subsequent to the effective date of the new law.

As to the issues raised in the original motions to dismiss, these matters are concluded by the opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the Charlottesville and Arlington school cases 5 on appeals from District Judges Paul and Bryan respectively. Nothing need be added thereto as counsel concede that this opinion is binding upon this Court.

The two remaining questions for this Court's determination are:

(1) Are the new school laws of Virginia, and particularly the aforementioned Chapter 70, unconstitutional on their face?

(2) Is a three-judge court required by law to decide the constitutional question raised by the defendants' supplemental motions to dismiss?

The Constitutionality of the Public Placement Act as Provided by Chapter 70, Acts of Assembly, Extra Session of 1956.

It is a well-settled principle of law that legislation enacted carries with it a presumption of constitutionality. There are, however, certain limitations on the application of this rule as stated in Ex parte Endo, 323 U.S. 283, 299, 65 S.Ct. 208, 217, 89 L.Ed. 243, where it is said that the Supreme Court 'has quite consistently given a narrower scope for the operation of the presumption of constitutionality when legislation appeared on its face to violate a specific provision of the Constitution'. And in Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214, 216, 65 S.Ct. 193, 194, 89 L.Ed. 194, appears this language:

'All legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect. That is not to say that all such restrictions are unconstitutional. It is to say that courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny.'

Counsel for the respective School Boards concede that this Court is obliged to follow the rulings of the United States Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. It does not lie within the purview of a District Judge to alter or amend these decisions irrespective of the wisdom of the same-- that remedy rests in the highest court of the nation or in a constitutional amendment.

Equally well-settled is the principle that, in determining the constitutionality of legislation, a court should examine the legislative history of same to ascertain the legislative purpose and intent, and that acts in pari materia should be construed together. 6 Statutes having the same general purpose, relating to the same class of subjects, constituting parts of the same general plan, and aimed at the accomplishment of the same results, are all considered together. 7 It is significant that the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia has consistently adhered to this doctrine and it is largely immaterial in

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determining whether the legislation was passed at the same session, or at an earlier date without reference to the statute in pari materia. 8 Similarly, reports of legislative committees and pertinent resolutions, while not binding upon on the Court, may be examined to ascertain the legislative intent in enacting the laws under attack. 9

With these uncontroverted principles in mind the Court is duty bound to review the forerunners and objectives leading to the enactment of Chapter 70 (referred to as the Pupil Placement Act) by the Special Session of the General Assembly of Virginia in September, 1956.

Following the first decision of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, supra, decided May 17, 1954, the Governor of Virginia, on August 30, 1954, created and appointed a legislative commission, known as the Virginia Commission on Public Education, consisting of 32 members of the General Assembly, with instructions to make appropriate recommendations. After a period of slightly more than 14 months, it submitted its report to the Governor in what is generally referred to as the 'Gray Report', named for the Chairman of the Commission. In substance, the Commission expressed its views that separate facilities in public schools were for the best interest of both races and recommended the enactment of a pupil assignment program permitting local school boards to assign pupils in such manner as would best serve the welfare of their communities and protect and foster the public schools in the localities in question. It further recommended that no child be required to attend a school wherein both white and colored children are taught, and suggested tuition grants for parents of children who objected to integrated schools, or who lived in communities wherein no public schools are operated. In further discussing its proposal the 'Gray Commission' said:

'Such legislation would be designed to give localities broad discretion in the assignment of pupils in the public schools.

'Assignments would be based upon the welfare of the particular child as well as the welfare and best interests of all other pupils attending a particular school. The school board should be authorized to take into consideration such factors as availability of facilities, health, aptitude of the child and the availability of transportation.

'Children who have heretofore attended a particular public school would not be reassigned to a different one except for good cause shown. A child who has not previously attended a public school or whose residence has changed, would be...

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