Evans v. Buchanan

Decision Date27 March 1975
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 1816-1822.
Citation393 F. Supp. 428
PartiesBrenda EVANS et al., Plaintiffs, v. Madeline BUCHANAN et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Delaware

Louis L. Redding, Irving Morris, and Joseph A. Rosenthal, Morris & Rosenthal, Wilmington, Del., for individual plaintiffs.

Louis R. Lucas, Ratner, Sugarmon & Lucas, Memphis, Tenn., Frederick H. Altergott, Asst. City Sol., Wilmington, Del., for intervening plaintiffs, The Bd. of Ed. of the City of Wilmington.

William Prickett, and Mason E. Turner, Jr., Prickett, Ward, Burt & Sanders, Wilmington, Del., and Philip B. Kurland, Chicago, Ill., for defendants.

John P. Sinclair, Potter, Anderson & Corroon, Thomas S. Lodge, Connolly, Bove & Lodge, Edward W. Cooch, Jr., Cooch & Taylor, and Samuel R. Russell, Wilson & Russell, Wilmington, Del., for intervening defendants.

John S. Grady, Bader, Dorsey & Kreshtool, Wilmington, Del., as amicus curiae.

Before GIBBONS, Circuit Judge, and WRIGHT and LAYTON, Senior District Judges.


CALEB M. WRIGHT, Senior District Judge.

The issue before the Court is whether, in light of the Supreme Court's opinion in Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717, 94 S.Ct. 3112, 41 L.Ed.2d 1069 (July 25, 1974), it is incumbent upon us to consider metropolitan as well as Wilmington-only school desegregation remedies. Based on the findings we make today, we conclude that the record in this case makes it necessary to consider inter-district school desegregation remedies. Accordingly, the parties will be required to submit alternative Wilmington-only and inter-district plans to eliminate existing school segregation in New Castle County.


This lawsuit began in 1957. Its object was to eliminate the de jure segregation in Delaware schools. The history of the case is set forth in detail in our most recent opinion, Evans v. Buchanan, 379 F.Supp. 1218 (D.Del.1974). In that opinion, filed on July 12, 1974, we found unanimously that many schools in Wilmington which were black schools prior to Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954) (Brown I) remained identifiably black until 1974, and that the dual school system in Wilmington had not been eliminated. We also re-affirmed repeated holdings by this Court and the Court of Appeals that the duty to desegregate Delaware schools rests primarily with the State Board of Education. 379 F. Supp. at 1221-22. The majority of the Court postponed consideration (a) of plaintiffs' challenge to the constitutionality of the Educational Advancement Act of 1968, 14 Del.C. § 1001 et seq. and (b) of plaintiffs' claim that state enforcement and authorization of private racial discrimination, particularly in housing, resulted in racially segregated schools in New Castle County. Our brother Gibbons, would have found, on the authority of Wright v. Council of the City of Emporia, 407 U.S. 451, 92 S.Ct. 2196, 33 L.Ed.2d 51 (1972), and United States v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education, 407 U.S. 484, 92 S. Ct. 2214, 33 L.Ed.2d 75 (1972), that the provisions of the Educational Advancement Act excluding the Wilmington School District from a general reorganization of Delaware school districts were unconstitutional.

The majority of the Court could not, without making further findings, determine whether or not a remedy confined to the Wilmington School District would satisfy existing constitutional requirements. Therefore, the parties were required to submit, by September 15, 1974, alternative desegregation plans (a) within the present boundaries of the Wilmington School District and (b) incorporating other areas of New Castle County. 379 F.Supp. at 1224.

Before the date for submission of desegregation plans, the Supreme Court issued its Milliken opinion. That decision raised issues which led us to postpone the submission of desegregation plans. Both Chief Justice Burger's opinion for the Court and Justice Stewart's concurring opinion commented upon the limited opportunity afforded to suburban Detroit school districts to present evidence in Milliken. 418 U.S. at 754, 94 S.Ct. 3112. We therefore deemed it appropriate to afford suburban New Castle County school districts an opportunity to intervene in this proceeding pursuant to Rule 24, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and to present evidence on issues raised by the amended complaint. Appropriate notice was given to all districts which might be affected by a decree, and virtually all suburban school districts intervened.1 All of the intervening districts elected to adopt the State Board's pleadings and to stand on the evidence already of record in this proceeding. A brief schedule was established among all parties for argument on the impact of the Milliken opinion on the scope of this Court's remedial authority. Briefing was completed and oral argument held on January 15, 1975.


In Milliken v. Bradley, the Supreme Court framed an equitable limitation on the appropriate remedies for de jure school segregation. The essence of the holding in Milliken is found in three sentences:

The controlling principle consistently expounded in our holdings is that the scope of the remedy is determined by the nature and extent of the constitutional violation. Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, at 16, 91 S.Ct. 1267, at 1276, 28 L.Ed.2d 554 (1971). Before the boundaries of separate and autonomous school districts may be set aside by consolidating the separate units for remedial purposes or by imposing a cross-district remedy, it must first be shown that there has been a constitutional violation within one district that produces a significant segregative effect in another district. Specifically, it must be shown that racially discriminatory acts of the state or local school districts, or of a single school district have been a substantial cause of inter-district segregation.
418 U. S. at 744, 94 S.Ct. at 3127.

The Supreme Court found that in Detroit, acts of de jure segregation were, with one exception held to be de minimis,2 confined to the limits of the Detroit School District. Even though the State of Michigan, as well as the Detroit school authorities, was responsible for this de jure segregation, a cross-district remedy was found to be improper, in light of the fact that historically Michigan school districts were meaningfully separate and autonomous, that the district boundaries were not established for the purpose of creating, maintaining, or perpetuating segregation of races, and that unitary school systems have long been required by Michigan law.

We do not read the Milliken decision as restricting the reach of the fourteenth amendment. It is true that Chief Justice Burger writes at one point:

Where the schools of only one district have been affected, there is no constitutional power in the courts to decree relief balancing the racial composition of that district's schools with those of the surrounding districts. At 749, 94 S.Ct. at 3129 emphasis added.

An expansive interpretation of this language would suggest an immunity from constitutional scrutiny, by the federal courts or Congress, for state decisions concerning political or administrative subdivisions. Other language in the opinion however, demonstrates that such an interpretation of the quoted language is improper. The opinion states:

Of course, no state law is above the Constitution. School district lines and the present laws with respect to local control, are not sacrosanct and if they conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment federal courts have a duty to proscribe appropriate remedies. At 744, 94 S.Ct. at 3127.3

Both the factual context and the language of the majority opinion indicate that it is concerned with the appropriate exercise of federal equity jurisdiction, not the questions of substantive constitutional law. See generally, The Supreme Court, 1973 Term, 88 Harv.L.Rev. 41, 59-69 (1974). Such was clearly the understanding of Justice Stewart, at 753, 94 S.Ct. 3112, and such has been the consistent interpretation of lower court decisions following Milliken. See, e. g., Newburg Area Council, Inc. v. Board of Education of Jefferson County, Kentucky, 510 F.2d 1358 (6th Cir., 1974); Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority, 503 F.2d 930 (7th Cir. 1974); United States v. State of Missouri, 388 F. Supp. 1058 (E.D.Mo.1975).

Michigan, unlike Delaware, never required segregation by race in its schools. We conclude, however, that the remedial standards adopted by Milliken are equally applicable to formerly de jure states. Nothing in the Supreme Court's opinion suggests that it does not govern desegregation decrees in states which formerly required segregation by law. Compare, Newburg Area Council, Inc. v. Board of Education of Jefferson County, Kentucky, supra. Of course, to the extent that segregation imposed by state law has had inter-district effects, federal courts can fashion appropriate inter-district remedies. In short, this Court, in light of the Milliken holding, is authorized to consider desegregation relief embracing more than the Wilmington district only upon findings either that school districts in New Castle County are not meaningfully separate and autonomous, or that there have been racially discriminatory acts of the state or of local school districts causing inter-district segregation. Because our opinion of July 12, 1974, made no findings concerning inter-district constitutional violations, we must now make additional findings on these issues.


New Castle County, the most populous of Delaware's three counties, occupies 435 square miles in area and has a population, according to the 1970 census, of approximately 386,000.4 The City of Wilmington occupies approximately 15 square miles and is located roughly at the center of that portion of New Castle County which lies north of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. In 1970, Wilmington's population was approximately 80,000. According to the 1970 census, 12.7% of New...

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  • Coalition to Save Our Children v. BD. OF EDUC., Civ. A. No. 1816-1822 MMS.
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    ...court found inter-district de jure segregation involving eleven school districts in northern New Castle County. Evans v. Buchanan, 393 F.Supp. 428, 438 (D.Del.), aff'd, 423 U.S. 963, 96 S.Ct. 381, 46 L.Ed.2d 293 After three weeks of evidentiary hearings, the three-judge court rejected remed......
  • Evans v. Buchanan, Civ. A. No. 1816-1822.
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    • U.S. District Court — District of Delaware
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    ...and generated numerous opinions and orders since its reactivation in 1971: Evans v. Buchanan, 379 F.Supp. 1218 (D.Del.1974), and 393 F.Supp. 428 (D.Del.1975) (three-judge court finding constitutional violations and requiring plan for desegregation among Northern New Castle County and Wilmin......
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    • U.S. District Court — District of Delaware
    • January 9, 1978
    ...discriminatory dual school system that has persisted in New Castle County. Evans v. Buchanan, 379 F.Supp. 1218 (D.Del.1974), and 393 F.Supp. 428 (D.Del.), summ. aff'd., 423 U.S. 963, 96 S.Ct. 381, 46 L.Ed.2d 293 (1975). In formulating the appropriate remedy to redress the systemwide violati......
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • January 14, 1976
    ...isolation becomes constitutionally significant only when the district boundaries are drawn with segregative intent, Evans v. Buchanan, 393 F.Supp. 428, 445--46 (D.C.Del.), aff'd 423 U.S. 963, 96 S.Ct. 381, 46 L.Ed.2d 293 (1975); United States v. Missouri, 515 F.2d 1365 (8th Cir.), cert. den......
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2 books & journal articles
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    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 62 No. 4, April - April 2010
    • April 1, 2010
    ...lines in order to perpetuate segregation, thus giving the district court the power to consolidate the districts); Evans v. Buchanan, 393 F. Supp. 428, 433-36 (D. Del. 1975) (three-judge court), summarily aff'd by Buchanan v. Evans, 423 U.S. 963, 963 (1975) (three Justices dissenting) (findi......
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    • January 1, 1997
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