Caulfield v. Board of Ed. of City of NY

Decision Date15 March 1978
Docket Number77-C-2278 and 77-C-2531.,No. 77-C-2155,77-C-2155
Citation449 F. Supp. 1203
PartiesWilliam CAULFIELD, President Community School Board No. 26 et al., Plaintiffs, v. The BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the CITY OF NEW YORK et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York


Morris Weissberg, New York City, for plaintiffs.

Leonard Greenwald, Gretchen White Oberman, New York City, for intervenors-plaintiffs CSA, et al.

James R. Sandner, New York City, Thomas C. Greble, Glen Cove, for intervenors-plaintiffs Albert Shanker, et al.

Doran Gopstein, New York City, for defendant Bd. of Ed., et al.

James I. Meyerson, New York City, for intervenors-defendants Coalition of Black Educators, et al.

Kenneth Pawson, Albany, N. Y., for defendant State Commissioner of Education.

Arthur N. Eisenberg, New York Civil Liberties Union, Carol L. Ziegler, Public Ed. Ass'n, E. Richard Larson, American Civil Liberties Union, New York City, for defendant-intervenor Ross.

David G. Trager, U. S. Atty., E. D. N. Y., Brooklyn, N. Y., Richard Caro, Asst. U. S. Atty., Brooklyn, N. Y., for Dept. of HEW.

Nathan Z. Dershwitz, New York City, American Jewish Congress, amicus curiae.

Jeffrey P. Sinensky, New York City, Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, amicus curiae.

Major Davis Jr., Arverne, N. Y., amicus curiae.


WEINSTEIN, District Judge.


Plaintiff teachers, supervisors and administrators, in two related cases (77-C-2155, 77-C-2278), challenge a September 7, 1977, "Memorandum of Understanding" (Agreement) entered into by the New York City Board of Education and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) that requires the assignment of teachers on the basis of race. The Memorandum is set out in the Appendix. Alleging violations of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d and 2000d-2) and the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment voiding the September 7, 1977 Agreement, injunctive relief, and summary judgment.

HEW, the New York City Board of Education, and the intervenor defendants (as well as plaintiffs in related case 77-C-2531) defend on the ground that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act empowers them to reach such an accord and that the Memorandum of Understanding protects, rather than violates, the constitutional rights of New York City residents. They contend that the regulations of HEW have been fully complied with.

All parties prefer that this court forthwith declare the Agreement valid or invalid. They concur that there are important statutory and constitutional rights at issue. One side asserts that what is at stake is the right of individual teachers to have their assignments made without respect to race. The other side, save for the Board of Education, insists that New York City maintains an illegally segregated system of teacher assignments and that desegregation requires placement by race to eliminate racial concentrations. To be sure these are substantial substantive questions.

But there is a preliminary matter of transcendent importance. That is the issue of due process and the right to a hearing before important administrative action affecting the rights of individuals and institutions is taken. The huge power concentrations in the bureaucracies of our governments must not be permitted to be exercised secretly and arbitrarily. No matter how benign and well intentioned, those government officials who can, in practical effect, turn on or off the source of hundreds of millions of dollars, must conduct themselves with scrupulous regard for procedural protections. Not only must the result be just, but, if the people are to retain their faith in their government, the means used to achieve the result must be fair. See Friendly, "Some Kind of Hearing," 123 U.Pa.L.Rev. 1267, 1279-80 (1975).

Respect for the effective administration of government requires that before we address the substantive issue we permit the executive branch, through its appropriate administrative agency, to rectify any procedural error by granting a proper hearing. The reason is clear. Upon hearing the parties, modification may result that will vitiate the need for further litigation. It is obviously more desirable that those with presumed expertise, who are charged with the administration of federal funding programs, rather than the courts, make administrative decisions wherever possible.

The fact that the parties wish to sidestep the procedural question is not binding on the court. Cf. Reid v. Board of Education of New York, 453 F.2d 238, 242 n. 7 (2d Cir. 1971). Federal judges are not automatons, slot machines, who return the judgment selected if the parties agree on which button they would push. Once the jurisdiction of the court is invoked, the court has an obligation to decide in accordance with the law, even if the result satisfies none of the parties. Rentways, Inc. v. O'Neill Milk & Cream Co., 308 N.Y. 342, 349, 126 N.E.2d 271 (1955) (Fuld, J.). As Mr. Justice Frank-furter remarked in another context:

A trial is not a game of blind man's buff; and the trial judge — particularly in a case where he himself is the trier of the facts upon which he is to pronounce the law — need not blindfold himself . . ..

Johnson v. United States, 333 U.S. 46, 54, 68 S.Ct. 391, 395, 92 L.Ed. 468 (1948) (dissenting).

We find that the defendants have failed to comply with the procedural requirements of Title VI. Although the "Memorandum of Understanding" does not call for the termination of funds, it conditions further funding on the achievement of results that will require sweeping changes in the city school system. Title VI mandates that drastic governmental action of this nature that affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens cannot result solely from secret, informal negotiations conducted exclusively by a handful of government officials. HEW regulations must provide for some form of public participation in such critical decisionmaking by those whose rights are directly affected.

Accordingly, we vacate the September 7, 1977 Memorandum of Understanding and remand to HEW so that it can formulate and implement appropriate procedures. See, e. g., Addison v. Holly Hill Fruit Producers, 322 U.S. 607, 619-21, 64 S.Ct. 1215, 1222-23, 88 L.Ed. 1488 (1944); Douglas v. Hampton, 512 F.2d 976, 988-89 (D.C. Cir. 1975). To avoid disruption of the school system, the status of those already assigned under the Agreement will be maintained. Until this matter is resolved all assignments after April 7, 1978, will be made as if the Agreement had never become effective.

In view of this holding, we decline at this juncture to rule on the constitutionality of the Memorandum of Understanding. Such a ruling would be premature since the terms of the Agreement may well be altered when, as Title VI requires, the views of the non-negotiating parties and the public are considered.

A. Parties

This suit was brought originally by six community school boards (1, 18, 20, 25, 26, and 29), individual principals and teachers against HEW and the Board of Education. Intervention as plaintiffs was granted to the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and two teachers in the New York City school system; the Council of Supervisors and Administrators of the City of New York, Local 1, SASOC, AFL-CIO (CSA), plaintiffs in the related case of Zuckerman v. Aiello, 77-C-2278; and Community School Boards 11, 21 and 24. Also granted were motions to intervene as defendants by the Coalition of Concerned Black Educators, an unincorporated association, and four Black teachers, three of whom were reinstated and assigned in September 1977 pursuant to the September 7, 1977 Memorandum of Understanding; and Ronald Ross, a Black teacher in the New York City public school system, who was a co-complainant in an administrative complaint filed with OCR on or about February 17, 1976 alleging various discriminatory practices by the New York City Board of Education. Participating as friends of the court have been the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith and Major Davis, the former two aligned generally with the plaintiffs, and the latter with the defendants.

B. Related Ethnic Census Dispute

On December 6, 1977, after hearing argument, the court denied the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order to enjoin the collection of data for the civil rights survey or census being undertaken by the defendant Board of Education on behalf of itself, the State of New York and the federal government. Plaintiffs then sought a preliminary injunction to bar the collection of ethnic data. After further argument on February 23, 1978, this relief was denied. Defendants were stayed for two weeks from placing into their computers any data or information being obtained from plaintiffs from such a survey or census, pending the filing of a notice of appeal and a motion with the Court of Appeals to extend the stay. Subsequent motions to reconsider the court's determination were rejected. There is a clear right and obligation of authorities to gather data in order to determine whether there has been unlawful discrimination. See United States v. Board of Education et al. (E.D.N.Y. 76-C-861) (Order of July 15, 1976), appeal dismissed as moot, 543 F.2d 1 (2d Cir. 1976).

C. Hearing on Due Process — Title VI Issue

On February 23, 1978, the parties were requested to assist the court in deciding whether rights to constitutional and statutory due process were abridged by the failure to afford interested persons an opportunity to participate in the administrative proceedings that resulted in the Memorandum of Understanding. A hearing on this question was held on March 7, 1978.

At that hearing the parties were afforded an opportunity for full argument and submission of any relevant...

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