Bradley v. School Board of City of Richmond, Virginia, Civ. A. No. 3353.

Decision Date17 August 1970
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 3353.
Citation317 F. Supp. 555
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia


Ralph Page, Richmond, Va., Jack Greenberg, James M. Nabrit, III, Norman J. Chachkin, New York City, James R. Olphin, Richmond, Va., Louis R. Lucas, Memphis, Tenn., for plaintiffs.

George B. Little, William L. Wimbish, Conard B. Mattox, Jr., Richmond, Va., for defendants.

Everette G. Allen, Jr., Richmond, Va., for intervenors Bellevue-Ginter Area Civic Ass'n, Robert Douglas Bain, and Sherwood Park Civic Ass'n.

Frederick T. Gray, Walter E. Rogers, Richmond, Va., for intervenors Noel Austin and others.

John S. Battle, William H. King, Jr., Richmond, Va., for intervenors Westover Hills Parent-Teacher Ass'n.


MERHIGE, District Judge.

This class action, a school desegregation case, has been before the Court in one posture or another for about nine years.

It was commenced approximately seven years after the historic Brown decision, Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954), and reached what was then hopefully considered the end of the road by virtue of a Court approved plan for the desegregation of the Richmond City school system by utilization of "freedom of choice."

In the interim, as in many similar suits, the matter had gone to and from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court.

On March 10, 1970, the plaintiffs filed a motion for further relief, based upon the mandates of our appellate courts requiring school boards to put into effect school plans which would promptly and realistically convert public school systems into ones which were unitary, non-racial systems, removing all vestiges of racial segregation.

On March 12, 1970, the Court ordered the defendants to "* * * within ten days from this date, advise the Court if it is their position that the public schools of the City of Richmond, Virginia, are being operated in accordance with the constitutional requirements to operate unitary schools as enunciated by the United States Supreme Court."

On March 19, 1970, defendants filed a statement to the effect that "they had been advised that the public schools of the City of Richmond are not being operated as unitary schools in accordance with the most recent enunciations of the Supreme Court of the United States," and further that they had "requested the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to make a study and recommendation as to a plan which would ensure the operation of a unitary school system in compliance with decisions of the United States Supreme Court," said plan to be ready by May 1, 1970.

A pre-trial conference was held in open court on March 31, 1970, at which time the Court having some doubt as to the effect or intent of the defendants' statement of March 19, 1970, "that they had been advised that the public schools of the City of Richmond are not being operated as unitary schools in accordance with the most recent enunciations of the Supreme Court of the United States," inquired as to whether defendants were desirous of an evidentiary hearing as to the plan they were then operating under, i. e. freedom of choice.

The defendant school board, by counsel, advised the Court that such a hearing would not be necessary and admitted that their freedom of choice plan, although operating in accord with this Court's order of March 30, 1966, was operating in a manner contrary to constitutional requirements.

As a consequence thereof, the Court on April 1, 1970, entered a formal order vacating its previous order of March 30, 1966, and mandatorily enjoining the defendants to disestablish the existing dual system of schools and to replace same with a unitary system, the components of which are not identifiable as either "white" or "Negro" schools.

The defendant school board was directed to file its proposed plan by May 11, 1970. Plaintiffs were to file exceptions by June 8, 1970, and hearings were set for June 19, 1970.

On or about June 4, 1970, the first of the eventual intervenors moved to intervene.

In the interim, the school board had filed its proposed plan, which had been prepared by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

The Court heard and considered the motions to intervene and permitted all who so moved to intervene, pursuant to Fed.Rules Civ.Proc. rule 24(b), 28 U.S.C.

The intervenors were as follows:

1. Bellevue-Ginter Area Civic Association, described as a non-profit corporation composed of "residents of the City of Richmond, most of whom have children in the Richmond public school system and all of whom are deeply and sincerely interested in maintaining the finest possible public school system, in maintaining the `Northside' area of Richmond as a desirable area to live and raise children of school age and in preventing `tipping the neighborhood' by causing responsible residents to leave the area." The area in which these intervenors reside is generally considered an integrated one.

2. Robert Douglas Bain, an infant, et al. and Sherwood Park Civic Association. The individuals are white residents of the Northside of the City, as are the members of the Civic Association, all of whose interest coincides with the interest of the first named intervenors, Bellevue-Ginter Area Civic Association.

3. Noel Austin, et al. described as residents of the City of Richmond (both infant and adult) residing in that area of the city recently annexed from the contiguous County of Chesterfield. (The area described as being recently annexed is predominantly white.)

4. Westover Hills Parent-Teachers Association, described as an association of teachers and parents of children assigned to and attending Westover Hills Elementary School. (A predominantly white school—99.43% under freedom of choice—located on the Southside of the City.)

Exceptions to the H.E.W. plan were filed by the plaintiffs and those intervenors described as Northside residents.

The Westover Hills P.T.A., while not filing any formal exceptions, did in its pleading upon its application to intervene address itself to the H.E.W. proposal to eliminate the 7th Grade level at Westover Hills Elementary School.

On June 11, 1970, one week prior to the original hearing on the H.E.W. plan, and approximately three months after the defendant school board stated it had been advised its freedom of choice plan had not brought about a unitary system, the Northside intervenors in a pleading styled "Bellevue-Ginter Area Civic Association Amended Pleading and Pleading on Behalf of Other Intervenors," requested the Court to vacate its order of April 1, 1970, (this order, in essence, recited the school board's admission that its system did not conform to the Constitutional requirements and ordered the submission of a plan other than freedom of choice) or to require the taking of evidence to rule upon the constitutionality of said plan in its entirety or in part.

It should be noted here that the Court had permitted intervention upon the conditions that the intervention would in no manner delay the case and that the intervenors take the case in the posture it was at the time of intervention.

The Court, as will be pointed out in more detail in this memorandum, is satisfied that the defendant school board's admission in reference to this issue was demonstrably justified.

In any event, no evidence was received in support of any theory that the school board's court-approved freedom of choice plan had worked.

The Northside intervenors and plaintiffs filed proposed plans of their own.

Intervenors' plan was confined as to specifics to approximately ten schools and included a suggestion that "Free transfer should be implemented as part of any plan, but for the sole purpose of allowing transfers from the racially identifiable schools to an integrated school, where space is available at the latter. Further, some transfer policy should be available where the reason for the transfer is justified by valid educational reasons. For example, if a math center is established at John Marshall High School, a student with interest and ability in math might be permitted to transfer from Maggie Walker, Thomas Jefferson or any other high school to John Marshall, assuming space is available."

The hearing on all proposed plans and exceptions thereto was commenced on June 19, 1970, and concluded on June 26, 1970, at which time the Court, recognizing the necessity for expeditious rulings and intending to file these more detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law, advised the defendant school board that its proposed H.E.W. plan was not acceptable—a conclusion which the Court felt then and still feels should have been patently obvious in view of the opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 431 F.2d (4th Cir. 1970), which had been rendered on May 26, 1970.

The fact that the defendant school board took no voluntary action to change its court-approved freedom of choice plan even after the United States Supreme Court's widely disseminated opinion in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430, 88 S.Ct. 1689, 20 L.Ed.2d 716 (1968), coupled with its continued presentation of the H.E.W. plan during the June hearings, coupled with the Court's ultimate findings of fact, convinces the Court that no plan can be approved that is not of a reasonably definitive nature in every aspect.


As of May 1, 1970, the Richmond public school system enrolled approximately 52,000 students. The racial composition of the school student population was roughly 60% Black and 40% White. The board operated 61 school facilities.

High Schools

Of the seven high schools, three were 100% Black; one was...

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8 cases
  • Bradley v. School Board of City of Richmond, Virginia
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • January 10, 1972
    ...1983; Rule 23(a) and (b) (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Excerpts from this Court's opinion in Bradley v. School Board of City of Richmond, D.C., 317 F.Supp. 555 (1970), establish the present stage of this litigation. At the time, the schools of the City of Richmond were being ......
  • Bradley v. School Board of City of Richmond 8212 1322
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • May 15, 1974
    ...1966, and enjoining the defendants 'to disestablish the existing dual system' and to replace it 'with a unitary system.' See 317 F.Supp. 555, 558 (ED Va.1970). Thereafter, the Board and several intervenors filed desegregation The initial plan offered by the Board and HEW was held unacceptab......
  • Bradley v. School Board of City of Richmond, Virginia
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • June 5, 1972
    ...litigation in the district court is found in Bradley v. School Board of the City of Richmond, 51 F.R.D. 139 (E.D.Va.1970); 317 F.Supp. 555 (E.D.Va.1970); 324 F. Supp. 396 (E.D.Va.1971); 324 F.Supp. 439 (E.D.Va.1971); 324 F.Supp. 456 (E.D.Va.1971); and 325 F.Supp. 828 (E.D. Va.1971). The opi......
  • Buck v. Com.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals
    • June 22, 1993
    ...449 U.S. 862, 101 S.Ct. 167, 66 L.Ed.2d 79 (1980); Goins v. Allgood, 391 F.2d 692, 697 (5th Cir.1968); Bradley v. School Bd. of Richmond, 317 F.Supp. 555, 566 (E.D.Va.1970); Sims v. Baggett, 247 F.Supp. 96, 108 Even aside from the clear legal precedent, to contend that "it is not generally ......
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