Belk v. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Bd. of Education

Decision Date27 February 2001
Docket NumberN,No. 99-2389,No. 00-1098,CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG,99-2389,00-1098
Citation269 F.3d 305
Parties(4th Cir. 2001) TERRY BELK; DWAYNE COLLINS, on behalf of themselves and the class they represent, Plaintiffs-Appellants, WILLIAM CAPACCHIONE, Individually and on behalf of Christina Capacchione, a minor; MICHAEL P. GRANT; RICHARD EASTERLING; LAWRENCE GAUVREAU; KAREN BENTLEY; CHARLES THOMPSON; SCOTT C. WILLARD, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. THEBOARDOF EDUCATION; ERIC SMITH, Superintendent, in his official capacity; ARTHUR GRIFFIN, Chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, in his official capacity, Defendants. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION; NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, Amici Curiae. WILLIAM CAPACCHIONE, Individually and on behalf of Christina Capacchione, a minor; MICHAEL P. GRANT; RICHARD EASTERLING; LAWRENCE GAUVREAU; KAREN BENTLEY; CHARLES THOMPSON; SCOTT C. WILLARD, Plaintiffs-Appellees, and TERRY BELK; DWAYNE COLLINS, on behalf of themselves and the class they represent, Plaintiffs, v. THEBOARDOF EDUCATION; ERIC SMITH, Superintendent, in his official capacity; ARTHUR GRIFFIN, Chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, in his official capacity, Defendants-Appellants. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION; NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, Amici Curiae. WILLIAM CAPACCHIONE, Individually and on behalf of Christina Capacchione, a minor; MICHAEL P. GRANT; RICHARD EASTERLING; LAWRENCE GAUVREAU; KAREN BENTLEY; CHARLES THOMPSON; SCOTT C. WILLARD,Plaintiffs-Appellees, and TERRY BELK; DWAYNE COLLINS, on behalf of themselves and the class they represent, Plaintiffs, v. THEBOARDOF EDUCATION; ERIC SMITH, Superintendent, in his official capacity; ARTHUR GRIFFIN, Chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, in his official capacity, Defendants-Appellants. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION; NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, Amici Curiae. WILLIAM CAPACCHIONE, Individually and on behalf of Christina Capacchione, a minor; MICHAEL P. GRANT; RICHARD EASTE
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, at Charlotte. Robert D. Potter, Senior District Judge.

(CA-97-482-3-P, CA-65-1974-3-P)

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted] COUNSEL ARGUED: Stephen Luke Largess, James Elliot Ferguson, II, FERGUSON, STEIN, WALLAS, ADKINS, GRESHAM & SUMTER, P.A., Charlotte, North Carolina; John W. Borkowski, HOGAN & HARTSON, L.L.P., Washington, D.C., for Appellants. Allan Lee Parks, PARKS, CHESIN & MILLER, P.C., Atlanta, Georgia, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: John W. Gresham, C. Margaret Errington, FERGUSON, STEIN, WALLAS, ADKINS, GRESHAM & SUMTER, P.A., Charlotte, North Carolina; Elaine R. Jones, DirectorCounsel, Norman J. Chachkin, Gloria J. Browne, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE & EDUCATIONAL FUND, INC., New York, New York; Allen R. Snyder, Maree Sneed, HOGAN & HARTSON, L.L.P., Washington, D.C.; James G. Middlebrooks, Irving M. Brenner, Amy Rickner Langdon, SMITH, HELMS, MULLISS & MOORE, L.L.P., Charlotte, North Carolina; Leslie Winner, General Counsel, CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG BOARD OF EDUCATION, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellants. Kevin V. Parsons, PARKS, CHESIN & MILLER, P.C., Atlanta, Georgia; John O. Pollard, MCGUIRE, WOODS, BATTLE & BOOTHE, Charlotte, North Carolina; William S. Helfand, MAGENHEIM, BATEMAN, ROBINSON, WROTENBERY & HELFAND, Houston, Texas; Thomas J. Ashcraft, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellees. Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Mark L. Gross, Rebecca K. Troth, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae United States. Michael Crowell, Lisa Lukasik, THARRINGTON SMITH, L.L.P., Raleigh, North Carolina; Allison B. Schafer, General Counsel, NORTH CAROLINA SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, Raleigh, North Carolina; Julie K. Underwood, General Counsel, NATIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION, Alexandria, Virginia, for Amici Curiae Associations.

Before WILKINSON, Chief Judge, and WIDENER, WILKINS, NIEMEYER, LUTTIG, WILLIAMS, MICHAEL, MOTZ, TRAXLER, KING, and GREGORY, Circuit Judges.

Affirmed in part and reversed in part by published opinions. A per curiam opinion announced the judgment of the court. Judge Traxler delivered the opinion of the court with respect to Parts I, II, IV, and V, in which Chief Judge Wilkinson and Judges Widener, Wilkins, Niemeyer, and Williams joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts III and VI, in which Judges Wilkins and Williams joined. Chief Judge Wilkinson wrote an opinion concurring in part in which Judge Niemeyer joined. Judge Widener wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. Judge Luttig wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting from the judgment in part. Judges Motz and King wrote a separate opinion in which Judges Michael and Gregory joined.

OPINION

PER CURIAM:

This case was argued before the en banc Court on February 27, 2001. The parties presented a number of issues for our consideration, including whether the district court erred in (l) finding that unitary status had been achieved and awarding attorneys' fees to plaintiffintervenors based on this finding; (2) holding that the establishment of a magnet schools program was an ultra vires, unconstitutional act justifying an award of nominal damages and attorneys' fees; (3) enjoining the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board from considering race in the future assignment of students or allocation of educational resources; and (4) sanctioning the Board for failing to comply with the district court's discovery order.

Having considered the briefs and arguments of the parties, a majority of the Court holds: (1) by a 7-4 vote (Chief Judge Wilkinson and Judges Widener, Wilkins, Niemeyer, Luttig, Williams and Traxler in the affirmative), the school system has achieved unitary status, but by a 6-5 vote (Chief Judge Wilkinson and Judges Niemeyer, Michael, Motz, King and Gregory in the affirmative) attorneys' fees for work done on the unitary status issue are denied; (2) by a 6-5 vote (Chief Judge Wilkinson and Judges Niemeyer, Michael, Motz, King, and Gregory in the affirmative), the Board did not forfeit its immunity for the establishment of the magnet schools program, and nominal damages and attorneys' fees in that regard are denied; (3) by a unanimous vote, the injunction is vacated; and (4) by a unanimous vote, the imposition of sanctions is affirmed.

The judgment of the district court is therefore affirmed on the finding of unitary status and the imposition of sanctions, reversed as to the finding of liability for nominal damages for the establishment of the magnet schools program, reversed as to the imposition of attorneys' fees for any reason, and reversed on the issuance of the injunction.

Unitary status having been achieved, the judgment of the district court vacating and dissolving all prior injunctive orders and decrees is affirmed. The Board is to operate the school system without the strictures of these decrees no later than the 2002-2003 school year.

AFFIRMED IN PART AND REVERSED IN PART

TRAXLER, Circuit Judge:

This case is hopefully the final chapter in the saga of federal court control over the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools ( "CMS"). Since 1971 CMS has operated under a federally supervised desegregation plan that included limited use of racial ratios, pairing and grouping of school zones, and extensive busing. So successful was the plan that the district court removed the case from the active docket in 1975, expressing its belief that the once reluctant school board was committed to achieving desegregation and was already well on the way toward a unitary school system. Since then, two generations of students have passed through CMS and, until the present case, not one person has returned to court alleging that segregative practices have been continued or revived.

Now, nearly three decades later and prompted by a lawsuit filed by a white student challenging the magnet schools admissions policy, the question of whether CMS has achieved unitary status has been placed before our courts. In 1999, the district court, after a lengthy hearing and searching inquiry, concluded that CMS had indeed achieved unitary status by eliminating the vestiges of past discrimination to the extent practicable. This conclusion was not reached in haste; it was the result of a two-month hearing and an examination of extensive testimony and evidence relating to every aspect of CMS's educational system.

A majority of this court now affirms the district court's holding on this issue, satisfied that CMS has dismantled the dual school system. In sharp contrast to the situation in the late 1960s, when black students were segregated in black schools and taught by a predominantly black staff, CMS students today are educated in an integrated environment by an integrated faculty. Nor do we turn over control to an indecisive and uncommitted school board. CMS currently operates under the firm guidance of an integrated school board which has clearly demonstrated its commitment to a desegregated school system.

In sum, the "end purpose" of federal intervention to remedy segregation has been...

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