Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, No. 592

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation84 S.Ct. 1226,12 L.Ed.2d 256,377 U.S. 218
PartiesCocheyse J. GRIFFIN, etc., et al., Petitioners, v. COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD OF PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY et al
Docket NumberNo. 592
Decision Date25 May 1964

377 U.S. 218
84 S.Ct. 1226
12 L.Ed.2d 256
Cocheyse J. GRIFFIN, etc., et al., Petitioners,

v.

COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD OF PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY et al.

No. 592.
Argued March 30, 1964.
Decided May 25, 1964.

[Syllabus from pages 218-219 intentionally omitted]

Page 220

Robert L. Carter, New York City, for petitioners.

Solicitor Gen. Archibald Cox for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

J. Segar Gravatt, Blackstone, Va., and R. D. McIlwaine, III, Richmond, Va., for respondents.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

This litigation began in 1951 when a group of Negro school children living in Prince Edward County, Virginia, filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia alleging that they had been denied admission to public schools attended by white children and charging that Virginia laws requiring such school segregation denied complainants the equal protec-

Page 221

tion of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. On May 17, 1954, ten years ago, we held that the Virginia segregation laws did deny equal protection. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 48 , 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954). On May 31, 1955, after reargument on the nature of relief, we remanded this case, along with others heard with it, to the District Courts to enter such orders as 'necessary and proper to admit (complainants) to public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed * * *.' Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294, 301, 75 S.Ct. 753, 757, 99 L.Ed. 1083 (1955).

Efforts to desegregate Prince Edward County's schools met with resistance. In 1956 Section 141 of the Virginia Constitution was amended to authorize the General Assembly and local governing bodies to appropriate funds to assist students to go to public or to nonsectarian private schools, in addition to those owned by the State or by the locality.1 The General Assembly met in special session and enacted legislation to close any public schools where white and colored children was enrolled together, to cut off state funds to such schools, to pay tuition grants to children in non-sectarian private schools, and to extend state retirement benefits to teachers in newly created private schools.2 The legislation closing mixed schools and cutting off state funds was later invalidated by the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia, which held that these laws violated the Virginia Constitution. Harrison v. Day, 200 Va. 439, 106 S.E.2d 636 (1959). In April 1959 the General Assembly abandoned 'massive resistance' to desegregation and turned instead to what was

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called a 'freedom of choice' program. The Assembly repealed the rest of the 1956 legislation, as well as a tuition grant law of January 1959, and enacted a new tuition grant program.3 At the same time the Assembly repealed Virginia's compulsory attendance laws4 and instead made school attendance a matter of local option.5

In June 1959, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit directed the Federal District Court (1) to enjoin discriminatory practices in Prince Edward County schools, (2) to require the County School Board to take 'immediate steps' toward admitting students without regard to race to the white high school 'in the school term beginning September 1959,' and (3) to require the Board to make plans for admissions to elementary schools without regard to race. Allen v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 266 F.2d 507, 511 (C.A.4th Cir. 1959). Having as early as 1956 resolved that they would not operate public schools 'wherein white and colored children are taught together,' the Supervisors of Prince Edward County refused to levy and school taxes for the 1959—1960 school year, explaining that they were 'confronted with a court decree which requires the admission of white and colored children to all the schools of the county without regard to race or color.'6 As a result, the county's public schools did not

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reopen in the fall of 1959 and have remained closed ever since, although the public schools of every other county in Virginia have continued to operate under laws governing the State's public school system and to draw funds provided by the State for that purpose. A private group, the Prince Edward School Foundation, was formed to operate private schools for white children in Prince Edward County and, having built its own school plant, has been in operation ever since the closing of the public schools. An offer to set up private schools for colored children in the county was rejected, the Negroes of Prince Edward preferring to continue the le al battle for desegregated public schools, and colored children were without formal education from 1959 to 1963, when federal, state, and county authorities cooperated to have classes conducted for Negroes and whites in school buildings owned by the county. During the 1959—1960 school year the Foundation's schools for white children were supported entirely by private contributions, but in 1960 the General Assembly adopted a new tuition grant program making every child, regardless of race, eligible for tuition grants of $125, or $150 to attend a nonsectarian private school or a public school outside his locality, and also authorizing localities to provide their own grants.7 The Prince Edward Board of Supervisors then passed an ordinance providing tuition grants of $100, so that each child attending the Prince Edward School Foundation's schools received a total of $225 if in elementary school or $250 if in high school. In the 1960—1961 session the major source of financial support for the Foundation was in the indirect form of these state and county tuition grants, paid to children attending Foundation schools. At the same time, the County Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance allowing property tax credits up to 25% for

Page 224

contributions to any 'nonprofit, nonsectarian private school' in the county.

In 1961 petitioners here filed a supplemental complaint, adding new parties and seeking to enjoin the respondents from refusing to operate an efficient system of public free schools in Prince Edward County and to enjoin payment of public funds to help support private schools which excluded students on account of race. The District Court, finding that 'the end result of every action taken by that body (Board of Supervisors) was designed to preserve separation of the races in the schools of Prince Edward County,' enjoined the county from paying tuition grants or giving tax credits so long as public schools remained closed.8 Allen v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 198 F.Supp. 497, 503 (D.C.E.D.Va.1961). At this time the District Court did not pass on whether the public schools of the county could be closed but abstained pending determination by the Virginia courts of whether the constitution and laws of Virginia required the public schools of be kept open. Later, however, without waiting for the Virginia courts to decide the question,9 the District Court held that 'the public schools of Prince Edward County may not be closed to avoid the effect of the law of the land as interpreted by the Supreme Court, while the Commonwealth of Virginia permits other public schools to remain open at the expense of the taxpayers.' Allen v. County School Board of Prince Ed-

Page 225

ward County, 207 F.Supp. 349, 355 (D.C.E.D.Va.1962). Soon thereafter, a declaratory judgment suit was brought by the County Board of Supervisors and the County School Board in a Virginia Circuit Court. Having done this, these parties asked the Federal District Court to abstain from further proceedings until the suit in the state courts had run its course, but the District Court declined; it repeated its order that Prince Edward's public schools might not be closed to avoid desegregation while the other public schools in Virginia remained open. The Court of Appeals reversed, Judge Bell dissenting, holding that the District Court should have abstained to await state court determination of th validity of the tuition grants and the tax credits, as well as the validity of the closing of the public schools. Griffin v. Board of Supervisors of Prince Edward County, 322 F.2d 332 (C.A.4th Cir. 1963). We granted certiorari, stating:10

'In view of the long delay in the case since our decision in the Brown case and the importance of the questions presented, we grant certiorari and put the case down for argument March 30, 1964, on the merits, as we have done in other comparable situations without waiting for final action by the Court of Appeals.' 375 U.S. 391, 392, 84 S.Ct. 400, 401, 11 L.Ed.2d 409.

For reasons to be stated, we agree with the District Court that, under the circumstances here, closing the Prince Edward County schools while public schools in all the other counties of Virginia were being maintained denied the petitioners and the class of Negro students they represent the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

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I.

Before reaching the substantial questions presented, we shall note several procedural matters urged by respondents in a motion to dismiss the supplemental amended complaint filed July 7, 1961 ten years after this action was instituted. Had the motion to dismiss been granted on any of the grounds assigned, the result would have been one more of what Judge Bell, dissenting in the Court of Appeals, referred to as 'the inordinate delays which have already occurred in this protracted litigation * * *.' 322 F.2d, at 344. We shall take up separately the grounds assigned for dismissal.

(a) It is contended that the amended supplemental complaint presented a new and different cause of action from that presented in the original complaint. The supplemental pleading did add new parties and rely in good part on transactions, occurrences, and events which had...

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603 practice notes
  • Gomez v. Wilson, No. 71-1484.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 23, 1973
    ...(8th Cir. 1944); Schempp v. School Dist. of Abington Township, 195 F.Supp. 518, 519 (E.D.Pa.1961). 34 E. g., Griffin v. County School Bd., 377 U.S. 218, 226-227, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed. 2d 256 (1964); United States v. National Screen Serv. Corp., 20 F.R.D. 226, 227-228 (S.D.N.Y.1957). Griff......
  • Haviland v. Butz, No. 74-1322
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 23, 1976
    ...at note 18. 54 Washington v. United States, 130 U.S.App.D.C. 374, 382, 401 F.2d 915, 923 (1968). See also Griffin v. County School Bd., 377 U.S. 218, 230, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 1232-1233, 12 L.Ed.2d 256, 264-265 (1964). 55 Washington v. United States, supra note 54, 130 U.S.App.D.C. at 382, 401 F.......
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • April 3, 1973
    ...such as racial discrimination' (p. 478, 279 A.2d p. 616), and cited in that regard Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 377 U.S. 218, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed.2d 256 (1964), and other cases. The lead case finding that the federal equal protection clause requires statewide e......
  • Clark v. Valeo, No. 76-1825
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 6, 1977
    ...1247 (1971), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 1030, 92 S.Ct. 1290, 31 L.Ed.2d 489 (1972); cf. Griffin v. County School Bd. of Prince Edward County, 377 U.S. 218, 231, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed.2d 256 (1964); Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 347, 81 S.Ct. 125, 5 L.Ed.2d 110 (1960). But see Palmer v.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
598 cases
  • Gomez v. Wilson, No. 71-1484.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 23, 1973
    ...(8th Cir. 1944); Schempp v. School Dist. of Abington Township, 195 F.Supp. 518, 519 (E.D.Pa.1961). 34 E. g., Griffin v. County School Bd., 377 U.S. 218, 226-227, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed. 2d 256 (1964); United States v. National Screen Serv. Corp., 20 F.R.D. 226, 227-228 (S.D.N.Y.1957). Griff......
  • Haviland v. Butz, No. 74-1322
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 23, 1976
    ...at note 18. 54 Washington v. United States, 130 U.S.App.D.C. 374, 382, 401 F.2d 915, 923 (1968). See also Griffin v. County School Bd., 377 U.S. 218, 230, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 1232-1233, 12 L.Ed.2d 256, 264-265 (1964). 55 Washington v. United States, supra note 54, 130 U.S.App.D.C. at 382, 401 F.......
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • April 3, 1973
    ...such as racial discrimination' (p. 478, 279 A.2d p. 616), and cited in that regard Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 377 U.S. 218, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed.2d 256 (1964), and other cases. The lead case finding that the federal equal protection clause requires statewide e......
  • Clark v. Valeo, No. 76-1825
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 6, 1977
    ...1247 (1971), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 1030, 92 S.Ct. 1290, 31 L.Ed.2d 489 (1972); cf. Griffin v. County School Bd. of Prince Edward County, 377 U.S. 218, 231, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed.2d 256 (1964); Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, 347, 81 S.Ct. 125, 5 L.Ed.2d 110 (1960). But see Palmer v.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Equal Protection, Strict Scrutiny, and Actions to Promote Environmental Justice
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 39-3, March 2009
    • March 1, 2009
    ...classiication would be shared by at least one member of the other community. 76. Griin v. County School Bd. of Prince Edward County, 377 U.S. 218, 230 (1964) (quoting Salsburg v. Maryland, 346 U.S. 545, 551 (1954)) (emphasis added). 77. Griin, 377 U.S. at 230. 78. Id. Despite recognizing th......
  • THE REASONABLENESS OF THE 'REASONABLENESS' STANDARD OF HABEAS CORPUS REVIEW UNDER THE ANTITERRORISM AND EFFECTIVE DEATH PENALTY ACT OF 1996.
    • United States
    • Case Western Reserve Law Review Vol. 72 Nbr. 3, March 2022
    • March 22, 2022
    ...while government officials actually did so. Id. at 221-23 (distinguishing from Griffin v. Cnty. Sch. Bd. of Prince Edward Cnty., 377 U.S. 218 (1964)). The Court also interpreted a second decision as going no further than limiting government efforts to encourage private discrimination. Id. a......
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, 1963-1964
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 17-4, December 1964
    • December 1, 1964
    ...the Court this term that attracted much popular atten- tion was Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (3’77 U.S. 218;84 S.Ct. 1226). The county board has closed public schools while at the same tuition grants and tax concessions assisted white children in private segregated......

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