458 U.S. 527 (1982), 81-38, Crawford v. Board of Education of City of Los Angeles

Docket Nº:No. 81-38
Citation:458 U.S. 527, 102 S.Ct. 3211, 73 L.Ed.2d 948
Party Name:Crawford v. Board of Education of City of Los Angeles
Case Date:June 30, 1982
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 527

458 U.S. 527 (1982)

102 S.Ct. 3211, 73 L.Ed.2d 948

Crawford

v.

Board of Education of City of Los Angeles

No. 81-38

United States Supreme Court

June 30, 1982

Argued March 22, 1982

CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA,

SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT

Syllabus

In a California state court action seeking desegregation of the schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (District), the trial court, in 1970, found de jure segregation in violation of both the State and Federal Constitutions and ordered the District to prepare a desegregation plan. The California Supreme Court affirmed, but based its decision solely upon the Equal Protection Clause of the State Constitution, which bars de facto as well as de jure segregation. On remand, the trial court approved a desegregation plan that included substantial mandatory pupil reassignment and busing. While the trial court was considering alternative new plans in 1979, the voters of California ratified an amendment (Proposition I) to the State Constitution which provides that state courts shall not order mandatory pupil assignment or transportation unless a federal court "would be permitted under federal decisional law" to do so to remedy a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. The trial court denied the District's request to halt all mandatory reassignment and busing, holding that Proposition I was not applicable in light of the court's 1970 finding of de jure segregation in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court then ordered implementation of a revised plan that again included substantial mandatory pupil reassignment and busing. The California Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the trial court's 1970 findings of fact would not support the conclusion that the District had violated the Federal Constitution through intentional segregation. The Court of Appeal also held that Proposition I was constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, and barred that part of the plan requiring mandatory student reassignment and busing.

Held: Proposition I does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 535-545.

(a) This Court's decisions will not support the contention that, once a State chooses to do "more" than the Fourteenth Amendment requires, it may never recede. Such an interpretation of that Amendment would be destructive of a State's democratic processes and of its ability to experiment in dealing with the problems of a heterogeneous population. Proposition I does not embody, expressly or implicitly, a racial classification.

Page 528

The simple repeal or modification of desegregation or antidiscrimination laws, without more, does not embody a presumptively invalid racial classification. Pp. 535-540.

(b) Proposition I cannot be characterized as something more than a mere repeal. Hunter v. Erickson, 393 U.S. 385, distinguished. The State Constitution still places upon school boards a greater duty to desegregate than does the Fourteenth Amendment. Nor does Proposition I allocate governmental or judicial power on the basis of a discriminatory principle. A "dual court system" -- one for the racial majority and one for the racial minority -- is not established simply because civil rights remedies are different from those available in other areas. It was constitutional for the people of the State to determine that the Fourteenth Amendment's standard was more appropriate for California courts to apply in desegregation cases than the standard repealed by Proposition I. Pp. 540-542.

(c) Even if it could be assumed that Proposition I had a disproportionate adverse effect on racial minorities, there is no reason to differ with the state appellate court's conclusion that Proposition I in fact was not enacted with a discriminatory purpose. The purposes of the Proposition -- chief among them the educational benefits of neighborhood schooling -- are legitimate, nondiscriminatory objectives, and the state court characterized the claim of discriminatory intent on the part of millions of voters as but "pure speculation." Pp. 543-545.

113 Cal.App.3d 633, 170 Cal.Rptr. 495, affirmed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined,post, p. 545. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion,post, p. 547.

Page 529

POWELL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

An amendment to the California Constitution provides that state courts shall not order mandatory pupil assignment or transportation unless a federal court would do so to remedy a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The question for our decision is whether this provision is itself in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

I

This litigation began almost 20 years ago, in 1963, when minority students attending school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (District) filed a class action in state court

Page 530

seeking desegregation of the District's schools.1 The case went to trial some five years later, and, in 1970, the trial court issued an opinion finding that the District was substantially segregated in violation of the State and Federal Constitutions. The court ordered the District to prepare a desegregation plan for immediate use. App. 139.

On the District's appeal, the California Supreme Court affirmed, but on a different basis. Crawford v. Board of Education, 17 Cal.3d 280, 551 P.2d 28 (1976). While the trial court had found de jure segregation in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, see App. 117, 120-121, the California Supreme Court based its affirmance solely upon the Equal Protection Clause of the State Constitution.2 The court explained that, under the California Constitution,

state school boards . . . bear a constitutional obligation to take reasonable steps to alleviate segregation in the public schools, whether the segregation be

Page 531

de facto or de jure in origin.

17 Cal.3d at 290, 551 P.2d at 34. The court remanded to the trial court for preparation of a "reasonably feasible" plan for school desegregation. Id. at 310, 551 P.2d at 48.3

On remand, the trial court rejected the District's mostly voluntary desegregation plan, but ultimately approved a second plan that included substantial mandatory school reassignment and transportation -- "busing" -- on a racial and ethnic basis.4 The plan was put into effect in [102 S.Ct. 3215] the fall of 1978, but, after one year's experience, all parties to the litigation were dissatisfied. See 113 Cal.App.3d 633, 636, 170 Cal.Rptr. 495, 497 (1981). Although the plan continued in operation, the trial court began considering alternatives in October, 1979.

In November, 1979, the voters of the State of California ratified Proposition I, an amendment to the Due Process and

Page 532

Equal Protection Clauses of the State Constitution.5 Proposition I conforms the power of state courts to order busing to that exercised by the federal courts under the Fourteenth Amendment:

[N]o court of this state may impose upon the State of California or any public entity, board, or official any obligation or responsibility with respect to the use of pupil school assignment or pupil transportation, (1) except to remedy a specific violation by such party that would also constitute a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and (2) unless a federal court would be permitted under federal decisional law to impose that obligation or responsibility upon such party to remedy the specific violation of the Equal Protection Clause. . . .6

Page 533

Following approval of Proposition I, the District asked the Superior Court to halt all mandatory reassignment and busing of pupils. App. 185. On May 19, 1980, the court denied the District's application. The court reasoned that Proposition I was of no effect in this case in light of the court's 1970 finding of de jure segregation by the District in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Shortly thereafter, the court ordered implementation of a revised desegregation plan, one that again substantially relied upon mandatory pupil reassignment and transportation.7

[102 S.Ct. 3216] The California Court of Appeal reversed. 113 Cal.App.3d 633, 170 Cal.Rptr. 495 (1981). The court found that the trial court's 1970 findings of fact would not support the conclusion that the District had violated the Federal Constitution through intentional segregation.8 Thus, Proposition I

Page 534

was applicable to the trial court's desegregation plan and would bar that part of the plan requiring mandatory student reassignment and transportation. Moreover, the court concluded that Proposition I was constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 654, 170 Cal.Rptr. at 509. The court found no obligation on the part of the State to retain a greater remedy at state law against racial segregation than was provided by the Federal Constitution. Ibid. The court rejected the claim that Proposition I was adopted with a discriminatory purpose. Id. at 654-655, 170 Cal.Rptr. at 509.9

Determining Proposition I to be applicable and constitutional, the Court of Appeal vacated the orders entered by the Superior Court. The California Supreme Court denied hearing. App. to Pet. for Cert. 73a.10 We granted certiorari. 454 U.S. 892 (1981).

Page 535

II

We agree with the California Court of Appeal in rejecting the contention that, once a State chooses to do "more" than the Fourteenth Amendment requires, it may...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP