427 U.S. 424 (1976), 75-164, Pasadena City Bd. of Educ. v. Spangler,

Docket Nº:No. 75-164
Citation:427 U.S. 424, 96 S.Ct. 2697, 49 L.Ed.2d 599
Party Name:Pasadena City Bd. of Educ. v. Spangler,
Case Date:June 28, 1976
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 424

427 U.S. 424 (1976)

96 S.Ct. 2697, 49 L.Ed.2d 599

Pasadena City Bd. of Educ.

v.

Spangler,

No. 75-164

United States Supreme Court

June 28, 1976

Argued April 27-28, 1976

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

In 1968, respondents, Pasadena, Cal., high school students and their parents, brought a purported class action against various school officials seeking injunctive relief from allegedly unconstitutional segregation of the public schools in Pasadena. The United States intervened as a party plaintiff pursuant to § 902 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides that, upon intervention, "the United States shall be entitled to the same relief as if it had instituted the action." Ultimately, in 1970, the District Court, holding that the defendants' educational policies and procedures violated the Fourteenth Amendment, enjoined the defendants from failing to adopt a desegregation plan, ordered them to submit a plan for desegregating the Pasadena schools which would provide that, beginning with the 1970-1971 school year, there would be no school "with a majority of any minority students," and retained jurisdiction so as to see that such a plan was carried out. The defendants did not appeal from this decree, and subsequently submitted the "Pasadena Plan," which was approved by the District Court. In 1974, however, petitioner school officials, successors to the original defendants, filed a motion with the District Court seeking to modify the 1970 order by eliminating the "no majority" requirement, whose meaning was admittedly unclear to all the parties, dissolving the injunction, and terminating the court's retained jurisdiction, or, in the alternative, to obtain approval of the petitioners' proposed modifications of the "Pasadena Plan." The District Court denied the motion, largely on the grounds that petitioners had failed to comply with the 1970 order, that literal compliance with the "no majority" requirement had occurred only in the initial year of the "Pasadena Plan's" operation, that subsequently a number of schools had violated that requirement, and that such requirement was an inflexible one to be applied anew each school year even though subsequent changes in the racial mix in the schools were caused by factors for which petitioners might not be considered responsible. The Court of Appeals affirmed, but with reservations,

Page 425

which it felt the District Court would heed, as to that court's view that it had a lifetime commitment to the "no majority" requirement and as to the substance of such requirement.

Held:

1. The United States' presence in the case pursuant to § 902 of the Civil Rights Act of 1984 ensures that the case is not moot, although it is moot as to respondent students and parents who were the original named plaintiffs because these students have graduated from the school system and thus they and their parents no longer have any stake in the outcome of the litigation, and there has been no certification of a class of unnamed students still attending [96 S.Ct. 2700] the Pasadena schools to be represented by the named plaintiffs. Pp. 429-431.

2. Having adopted the "Pasadena Plan" in 1970 as establishing a racially neutral system of student assignment in the school system, the District Court exceeded its authority in enforcing its order so as to require annual readjustment of attendance zones so that there would not be a majority of any minority in any Pasadena public school. Pp. 431-440.

(a) Since the post-1971 shifts in the racial makeup of some of the schools resulted from changes in the demographics of Pasadena's residential pattern due to a normal pattern of people moving into, out of, and around the school system, and were not attributable to any segregative action on the school officials' part, neither the school officials nor the District Court were

constitutionally required to make year-by-year adjustments of the racial composition of student bodies once the affirmative duty to desegregate has been accomplished and racial discrimination through official action is eliminated from the system.

Swann v. Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 32. Pp. 435-436.

(b) The fact that even if the "no majority" requirement had been unambiguous, it would be contrary to the intervening decision in Swann, supra, and that, being ambiguous, the parties interpreted it in a manner contrary to the District Court's ultimate interpretation, are factors, which, taken together, support modification, of the 1970 decree. Pp. 437-438.

(c) The Court of Appeals' disapproval of the District Court's view that it had a lifetime commitment to the "no majority" requirement, and of the substance of that requirement, was not sufficient to remove the requirement from the case, since, even though the Court of Appeals assumed that the District Court would heed such disapproval on remand, the fact remains that, despite such disapproval, the Court of Appeals affirmed the

Page 426

District Court's denial of the motion to amend the 1970 order, and thus subjected petitioners to contempt for violation of the injunctive decree notwithstanding that they might have reasonable and proper objections to the decree. On this phase of the case, petitioners were entitled to a reversal of the District Court with respect to its treatment of the "no majority" requirement portion of the 1970 order. Pp. 438-440.

519 F.2d 430, vacated and remanded.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 441. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 427

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1968, several students in the public schools of Pasadena, Cal., joined by their parents, instituted an action in the United States District Court for the Central District of California seeking injunctive relief from allegedly unconstitutional segregation of the high schools of the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD). This action named as defendants the Pasadena City Board of Education, which operates the PUSD, and several of its officials. Before the defendants had filed an answer, the United States moved to intervene in the case pursuant to Title IX, § 902, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 266, 42 U.S.C. § 2000h-2. The District Court granted this motion. Later, however, the court granted defendant Board's motion to strike those portions of the United States' complaint in intervention which sought to include in the case other areas of the Pasadena public school system: the elementary schools, the junior high schools, and the special schools. This ruling was the subject of an interlocutory appeal, see 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1), to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That court reversed the District Court and ordered the United States' demand for systemwide relief reinstated. 415 F.2d 1242 (1969). No further review of this decision was sought.

[96 S.Ct. 2701] Following remand from this decision, the District Court held a trial on the allegations that the Pasadena school system was unconstitutionally segregated. On January 23, 1970, the court entered a judgment in which it concluded that the defendants' educational policies and procedures were violative of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court ordered the defendants "enjoined from failing to prepare and adopt a plan to correct racial imbalance at all levels in the Pasadena Unified School

Page 428

District." The defendants were further ordered to submit to the District Court a plan for desegregating the Pasadena schools. In addition to requiring provisions for the assignment of staff and the construction and location of facilities, the District Court ordered that

[t]he plan shall provide for student assignments in such a manner that, by or before the beginning of the school year that commences in September of 1970, there shall be no school in the District, elementary or junior high or senior high school, with a majority of any minority students.

311 F.Supp. 501, 505 (1970). The court went on to retain

jurisdiction of this cause in order to continue to observe and evaluate the plans and the execution of the plans of the Pasadena Unified School District in regard to the hiring, promotion, and assignment of teachers and professional staff members, the construction and location of facilities, and the assignment of students.

Ibid. The defendant school officials voted to comply with the District Court's decree and not to appeal. They thereupon set out to devise and submit the plan demanded by the District Court. In February, the defendants submitted their proposed plan, the "Pasadena Plan," and on March 10, 1970, the District Court approved the plan, finding it "to be in conformance with the Judgment entered herein January 23, 1970." App. 96. The "Pasadena Plan" was implemented the following September, and the Pasadena schools have been under its terms ever since.

In January, 1974, petitioners, successors to the original defendants in this action, filed a motion with the District Court seeking relief from the court's 1970 order. Petitioners

Page 429

sought four changes: to have the judgment modified so as to eliminate the requirement that there be "no school in the District, elementary or junior high or senior high school, with a majority of any minority students"; to have the District Court's injunction dissolved; to have the District Court terminate its "retained jurisdiction" over the actions of the Board; or, as an alternative, to obtain approval of petitioners' propose modifications of the "Pasadena Plan."

The District Court held hearings on these motions and, on March 1, 1974, denied them in their entirety. In an opinion filed May...

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