Familias Unidas v. Briscoe

Decision Date16 December 1976
Docket NumberNo. 75-1205,75-1205
Citation544 F.2d 182
PartiesFAMILIAS UNIDAS, an Unincorporated Association and Irma Torrez, etc., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Dolph BRISCOE, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Governor of the State of Texas, Jerome H. Decker, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Medina County Judge, Kenneth Florey, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Superintendent of Schools of the Hondo Independent School District, and E. J. Leinweber, Jr., Glen McWilliams, Jack Been, Dr. J. E. Sandusky, Milton Renken, Lloyd Hardt, and Henry Dominguez, Individually and in Their Official Capacities as Members of the Board of Trustees of the Hondo Independent School District, Defendants- Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

Patricia Vasquez, San Antonio, Tex., Vilma S. Martinez, Mexican American Legal Defense & Ed. Fund, Sanford J. Rosen, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellants.

John L. Hill, Atty. Gen., William C. Bednar, Jr., J. C. Davis, Asst. Attys. Gen., David M. Kendall, Jr., First Asst. Atty. Gen., John W. Odam, Jr., Executive Asst. Atty. Gen., Austin, Tex., for Dolph Briscoe.

J. C. Heinsley, Austin, Tex., for Kenneth Flory and Hondo Ind. School Dist. Bd. of Trustees.

Emerson Banack, Jr., San Antonio, Tex., for Jerome Decker.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Before THORNBERRY * and AINSWORTH, Circuit Judges, and HOFFMAN, ** District Judge.

WALTER E. HOFFMAN, District Judge:

In an appeal from the Western District of Texas, appellants originally sought relief at law and in equity, as well as statutory relief, to safeguard certain constitutional rights they alleged were violated and deprived by appellees. The case comes to us with no decision on the merits, save denials of both a temporary restraining order and a request to convene a three-judge district court.

The lower court granted appellees' motion to dismiss under Rule 37(b)(2)(C), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for appellants' failure to comply with a prior discovery order that compelled them to answer three interrogatories propounded by appellees. We are asked to review the trial court's rulings with regard to the following: dismissal of the action with prejudice for noncompliance with the prior discovery order; denial of injunctive relief; denial of a three-judge court; refusal to render a declaratory judgment; the resulting consideration of alleged actual damages; and we are now additionally asked to declare Title 1, Texas Educational Code § 4.28 unconstitutional on its face and as applied.

Prior to February 14, 1974, Familias Unidas (Familias) was organized as an unincorporated body for the purpose of asserting certain deficiencies in the Hondo Independent School District, Medina County, Texas. The school board failed to respond to the apparent satisfaction of Familias members. Beginning on or about February 14, 1974, certain parents began withdrawing their children from school and commenced a boycott. The parties dispute the nature of this boycott: appellants alleging that Familias is a nonviolent organization; appellees arguing that there was a threat of violence inherent in the Hondo School boycott.

On February 26, 1974, Medina County Judge Jerome H. Decker wrote a letter to Mrs. Irma Torrez as chairman of Familias. Pursuant to § 4.28 of the Texas Educational Code, 1 he requested the following information concerning the organization: (1) the official name of the organization and a list of its members, (2) its office and usual meeting place, (3) its officers, employees and representatives, (4) the purposes of the organization, and (5) a statement disclosing any affiliation with a parent organization. Mrs. Torrez replied on March 4, 1974, refusing to give the information as § 4.28 required the information to be filed with the county clerk, not the county judge.

On or about February 28, 1974, two days following Judge Decker's first letter, the school board which governs the Hondo schools filed a lawsuit styled Hondo Independent School District v. Irma Torrez, et al., in the 38th Judicial District Court, Medina County, Texas, to enjoin Familias, its membership, and other persons from boycotting classes. Additionally, Irma Torrez was personally charged with a violation of § 4.33, Texas Educational Code, a misdemeanor allegation for disruption of school classes.

Upon receipt of Irma Torrez's refusal to furnish Judge Decker with the requested information, Judge Decker corrected his error and reissued his request that the information be provided, this time to the County Clerk of Medina County. Appellants then filed their first complaint on March 7, 1974, naming as defendants the Governor of the State of Texas, Judge Decker as Medina County Judge, the Superintendent of the Hondo Independent School District, and certain members of the Board of Trustees of the Hondo Independent School District. The action was stated to arise pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1988, with jurisdiction being conferred under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1343(3), (4) and 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202. As a class, appellants challenged the constitutionality of § 4.28 of The Texas Educational Code and requested that a three-judge district court be convened as provided in 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 2284; sought a temporary restraining order; demanded a permanent injunction against the statute's enforcement; requested a declaratory judgment; and asked for damages to the class, both actual and punitive, in the amounts of $100,000 for each award.

On March 13, 1974, a visiting judge denied appellants' motion for temporary restraining order enjoining appellees from enforcing § 4.28 as "moot"; the judge being advised that County Judge Decker had withdrawn his request for information regarding names of members of appellants' association. 2 Answers of all appellees were then forthcoming. A month following their answers, the school superintendent and members of the school board of trustees propounded interrogatories. Appellants did not answer the interrogatories until June 3, 1974, at which time they objected to interrogatories Nos. 4, 5 and 15. The disputed interrogatories, and the ones that are now in controversy, requested the following:

4. State the name or names of the person or persons included in the group of parents with children enrolled in the Hondo Public School system who are alleged in Paragraph 12 of the Plaintiffs' Original Complaint to have organized Familias Unidas.

5. State the name or names of the person or persons included in the group of parents mentioned in Paragraph 12 of the Plaintiffs' Original Complaint who had children enrolled in the school system of the Hondo Public Schools and list the name or names of the child or children of each individual, together with the age and grade in school of each such child.

15. State the name of any parent or parents who was or were included within the group of parents mentioned in paragraph 12 of Plaintiffs' Original Complaint who withdrew their children from the schools of the Hondo Independent School District as alleged in the third sentence of Plaintiffs' Original Complaint.

Appellants' objections to answering these interrogatories were grounded on protecting their right "to associate freely in order to advance the social and educational status of the Mexican American," and that appellees were "seeking to do indirectly what they are not entitled to do directly, and that is to discover the membership of Familias Unidas." Appellees responded on June 25, 1974, to appellants' objections with a motion to compel discovery, claiming entitlement to answers of the three interrogatories on the grounds of knowledge as to the identity of Familias who had brought suit against them, and for class action purposes. 3

On September 26, 1974, the trial court denied the motion to convene a three-judge court, the judge stating: "I just don't feel like, since this is a consequential matter, if the local authorities that you are trying to enjoin say they are not going to enforce it, I can't see the threat . . . . You don't have a current threat that would involve the expense and the difficulty of having a three-judge court obviously, under these circumstances. It's just not that compelling. The question is insubstantial if there's no threat to you . . . ."

In refusing to accept N.A.A.C.P. v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 78 S.Ct. 1163, 2 L.Ed.2d 1488 (1958), as dispositive and in refusing appellants' motion to strike, the trial judge said: "Now, of course in this case that you are dealing with, the NAACP, as you know, is a defendant in this case and was hailed into court, brought into court as a defendant. In this particular case, you are actually seeking redress in this court. And I think the Court has an interest in knowing, and the public has an interest in knowing the true interest of the parties who are hailing the Defendants into a court . . . that's an entirely different situation." 4

In a written order dated September 26, 1974, the court denied each of appellants' motions to strike and granted certain of appellees' motions to compel. The information so ordered was to be provided on or before October 2, 1974.

Appellants next filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, which was granted on November 5, 1974. The amended complaint eliminated in essence all class action allegations and reduced the ad damnum prayer from $100,000 for the class, to $10,000 for Irma Torrez, excluding all monetary damage relief for Familias and its members. On November 8, 1974, the trial court denied appellants' motion to reconsider its prior discovery order as well as its denial of appellants' request for a three-judge court. On November 19, 1974, the lower court refused to amend its two orders thus denying reconsideration. Appellants next requested the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to issue a writ of mandamus or prohibition. On the...

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25 cases
  • Britt v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • March 27, 1978
    ... ... (See, e. g., Familias Unidas v. Briscoe (5th Cir. 1976) 544 F.2d 182, 185-186, 192.) When such associational activities ... ...
  • Meltzer v. Board of Public Instruction of Orange County, Fla.
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    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
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    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Federal Circuit
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    ... ... For example, in Familias Unidas v. Briscoe, 544 F.2d 182 (5th Cir.1976), the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs after they ... ...
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