642 F.2d 129 (5th Cir. 1981), 80-1128, Drayden v. Needville Independent School Dist.

Docket Nº:80-1128.
Citation:642 F.2d 129
Party Name:Dorothy H. DRAYDEN, Alvesia C. Echols and Ernestine Sayles Wilson, Plaintiffs- Appellants, v. NEEDVILLE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Louis E. Ludwig, United States of America and The Department of Health and Human Services, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:April 08, 1981
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 129

642 F.2d 129 (5th Cir. 1981)

Dorothy H. DRAYDEN, Alvesia C. Echols and Ernestine Sayles

Wilson, Plaintiffs- Appellants,

v.

NEEDVILLE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Louis E. Ludwig,

United States of America and The Department of

Health and Human Services, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 80-1128.

Unit A

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 8, 1981

Page 130

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 131

Horace R. George, Houston, Tex., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Reynolds, Allen & Cook, Houston, Tex., for Needville Independent School Dist. and Louis E. Ludwig.

Anna E. Stool, Asst. U. S. Atty., Houston, Tex., for U. S. and Dept. of Health, etc.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before RUBIN and GARZA, Circuit Judges, and SUTTLE, [*] District Judge.

GARZA, Circuit Judge:

The appellants filed a complaint on May 9, 1979, alleging a violation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1985 and 1986. The appellants are all black women who were employed as teachers by the Needville Independent School District. The three were allegedly discharged without a hearing by the school district in 1966. The appellants claimed that a written complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in May of 1966 against the school district. The appellants allege that the EEOC took no action until March 19, 1978, when the Department of Health, Education and Welfare issued a directive to the school district that it was not complying with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 regarding teacher dismissals. The appellants in their original complaint sought declaratory relief against the school district, as well as injunctive relief prohibiting the federal government from allocating funds to the school district. The appellants also sought an order requiring the school district to return all federal funds it had received and in addition sought damages and attorney's fees. A more detailed amended complaint was filed in August of 1979.

On August 23, 1979, the district court ruled that the action was barred by the state statute of limitations, Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 5526 (Vernon's Supp.1980). The court allowed the appellants to file an amended complaint. The amended complaint was then filed on November 16, 1979, in which the appellants sought declaratory and injunctive relief and damages pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202 and 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d-2000d-6, the latter statutes known collectively as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Finally on December 10, 1979, the district court dismissed the action for failure to state a claim on the grounds that any action brought under § 1985 is barred by the state statute of limitations and that 42 U.S.C. § 2000d does not allow a private individual to bring a suit seeking the cessation of the allocation of federal funds to school districts.

The appellants now challenge the district court's rulings as to the § 1985 and Title VI claims. The federal civil rights laws do not contain a provision regarding a statute of limitations. Thus, although federal law controls the date of the beginning of the action, Rubin v. O'Koren, 621 F.2d 114, 116 (5th Cir. 1980), the applicable state law determines the length of the limitation period within which to bring the action.

Page 132

Kirk v. Cronvich, 629 F.2d 404, 406 (5th Cir. 1980); Dumas v. Town of Mt. Vernon, Alabama, 612 F.2d 974, 977 (5th Cir. 1980). In the present case, the applicable period of limitations is two years. Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 5526 (Vernon's Supp.1980).

In civil rights cases, a cause of action commences when a plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action. Rubin v. O'Koren, 621 F.2d at 116. In this case, if the injury was the discharge, it occurred in 1966. If, however, the injury was the conspiracy, it presumably began when the EEOC complaint was filed. This was also in 1966. The appellants contend that the running of the statute of limitations was tolled because of an ongoing conspiracy among the defendants in failing to correct the alleged wrongs. This ongoing conspiracy argument of appellants is specious. The alleged unlawful discharges occurred in 1966 and no further injury occurred to the appellants beyond those discharges. The fact that an EEOC claim is pending does not toll the statute of limitations in regard to actions under the civil rights statutes. Dumas v. Town of Mt. Vernon, Alabama, 612 F.2d at 979. The appellants were well aware of the alleged wrong done to them and were not prevented from filing a lawsuit within two years of their discharges. In light of the foregoing, the district court was correct in ruling that the appellants' § 1985 claim was time barred.

The district court dismissed the second claim under Title VI for failure to state a claim, holding that no private right of action exists under that part of the civil rights statutes. In their second amended complaint, the appellants sought a number of forms of relief under the auspices of Title VI. The appellants requested the court 1) to require the school district to repay all federal funds it has received since it began discriminating against black teachers, 2) to order all federal assistance to the school district to be terminated and 3) to order the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services) "to take proper action." The appellants also sought backpay and attorney's fees.

Although the Supreme Court has yet to categorically hold that a...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP