Dailey v. City of Lawton, Oklahoma, No. 291-69.

Citation425 F.2d 1037
Decision Date01 May 1970
Docket NumberNo. 291-69.
PartiesWillie Mae DAILEY and Columbia Square, Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CITY OF LAWTON, OKLAHOMA, a Municipal Corporation, James Knox, City Clerk, and Jim Sauerman, Building Inspector, all of the City of Lawton, Oklahoma, Defendants-Appellants.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)

Richard F. Bellman, New York City (Githen K. Rhoads, Lawton, Okl., and Sol Rabkin, New York City, on the brief), for plaintiffs-appellees.

Newcombe, Redman & Doolin, Lawton, Okl., submitted on brief for defendants-appellants.

Before LEWIS, Chief Judge, and BREITENSTEIN and SETH, Circuit Judges.

BREITENSTEIN, Circuit Judge.

Columbia Square, Inc., plaintiff-appellee, proposed to construct a privately sponsored low-income housing project in a predominantly white residential section of Lawton, Oklahoma. Plaintiff-appellee Willie Mae Dailey is a Negro and a potential renter of project space. The defendants-appellants, the City of Lawton and some of its employees, refused to issue a building permit without a zone change. Columbia Square's request for a zone change was denied. This action was then brought under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court enjoined the appellants from denying the building permit on the ground of a zoning violation. Dailey v. City of Lawton, W.D.Okl., 296 F.Supp. 266. We affirm.

We are concerned with Block 26 in the North Addition to Lawton. The Block was patented to the City for school purposes and was so used until about 1954. In 1962 the School District, which had acquired the land from the City, conveyed it to the Catholic Bishop. The Church used the premises for a parochial school until 1966. The Church then decided to use the property for a low-income housing project and arranged for the formation of Columbia Square, Inc., a non-profit corporation which would manage the project under the federal rent supplement program, 12 U.S.C. § 1701s.

The record does not show any zoning restriction on Block 26, at the time of its acquisition by the Bishop, which would prevent its use for the proposed project. In 1964 a new zoning ordinance was passed and the Block was classified as PF, a designation for public facilities. At the time the land was owned by the Church and not by any public agency. The area surrounding Block 26 and about three-fourths of the North Addition was zoned R-4, high density residential, in the 1964 ordinance. Most of the area around the Block consisted of single dwellings in some of which rooms were rented.

City officials told representatives of Columbia Square that a building permit would not be issued for the project without a change of the zone to R-4. Columbia Square then applied to the Lawton Metropolitan Area Planning Commission for the required zone change. Certain residents of the North Addition circulated petitions opposing the change and obtained the signatures of about 250 people, all of them white. The Planning Commission denied the application. Columbia Square then unsuccessfully appealed to the Lawton City Council.

The district court held that the actions of the Planning Commission and the City Council were racially motivated, arbitrary, and unreasonable. The judgment enjoined the City and its employees from refusing to issue a building permit for the project under an R-4 authorization. 296 F.Supp. at 269.

The City argues that the action may not be maintained against it because it is not a person within the purview of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It relies on Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492, and Egan v. City of Aurora, 365 U.S. 514, 81 S.Ct. 684, 5 L. Ed.2d 741, and like cases which hold that a municipality is not a person within the meaning of § 1983 when the suit is one to recover damages. The instant action seeks equitable relief, not damages. The City insists that if it is not a person covered by § 1983 in damage actions, it is not such a person with respect to actions for injunctive relief. The argument finds some support in footnote 50 to the Monroe opinion, 365 U.S. 167, 191, 81 S.Ct. 473, n. 50. We read that footnote as differentiating between actions for damages and actions for equitable relief and as intending no bar to equitable actions for injunctive relief against invasions of a plaintiff's federal constitutional rights by municipal action. This view is supported by Adams v. City of Park Ridge, 7 Cir., 293 F.2d 585, 587; Schnell v. City of Chicago, 7 Cir., 407 F.2d 1084, 1086; and United States v. City of Jackson, Mississippi, 5 Cir., 318 F.2d 1, 11. See also dissenting opinion of Judge Rives in Bailey v. Patterson, S.D. Miss., 199 F.Supp. 595, 614-615, vacated and remanded 369 U.S. 31, 82 S.Ct. 549, 7 L.Ed.2d 512. Here we have a corporation and an individual representing a class claiming that their Fourteenth Amendment rights have been denied. We see no reason why a municipality and its employees may not be enjoined from acting in violation of those rights.

After making many specific findings, the district court held that the actions of the Planning Commission and City Council were "a direct result of the bias and prejudice on the part of the owners of other property in North Addition, which feeling carried over" to the members of those bodies; that the motivation for the denial of the zoning change "was to keep a large concentration of Negroes and other minority groups from living in North Addition * * * and the fear of the property owners * * * that * * * such project as proposed by the plaintiff would bring about a depreciation in property values in the district." 296 F.Supp. at 268-269. The court also found that the Planning Commission and the City Council "acted arbitrarily and unreasonably in refusing to re-zone the property and to issue the building permit requested."

The prime question is whether the record supports the findings of the trial court that the appellants violated the rights of the appellees under the Constitution and laws of the United States. We must review the evidence and the findings in the light of the clearly erroneous standard. Rule 52(a), F.R.Civ.P.

Except for military personnel from Fort Sill, Lawton is in large measure a racially segregated city. The North Addition is predominately white. The housing project is designed to serve low-income groups which consist of Negroes, Spanish-Americans, and poor whites. The signers of the petitions in...

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