Holt v. City of Richmond
|03 May 1972
|459 F.2d 1093
|Curtis HOLT, Sr., Appellee, v. CITY OF RICHMOND et al., Appellants. Curtis HOLT, Sr., Appellant, v. CITY OF RICHMOND et al., Appellees.
|U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
Horace H. Edwards and John S. Davenport, III, Richmond, Va. (Conard B. Mattox, Jr., City Atty., Daniel T. Balfour, Asst. City Atty., City of Richmond, and Thomas E. Crosley, Jr., Matthew N. Ott, Jr., and Mays, Valentine, Davenport & Moore, Richmond, Va., on brief), for appellants in No. 71-2185 and for appellees in No. 71-2186.
W. H. C. Venable, Richmond, Va. (John M. McCarthy, Richmond, Va., Thomas F. Coates, III, and Everette G. Allen, Jr., Richmond, Va., and Venable & McCarthy and Hirschler & Fleisher, Richmond, Va., on brief), for appellee in No. 71-2185 and appellant in No. 71-2186.
Before HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge, and WINTER, CRAVEN, BUTZNER, RUSSELL and FIELD, Circuit Judges, sitting en banc.
Certiorari Denied June 26, 1972. See 92 S.Ct. 2510.
We are met with the problem of the effect of "unconstitutional motivation" on the part of certain officials of the City of Richmond in agreeing with officials of Chesterfield County upon a settlement of an annexation proceeding. The District Judge, 334 F.Supp. 228, did not invalidate the annexation, which occasioned the plaintiff's appeal, but he ordered a councilmanic election on the basis of a division of the City into voting districts of unequal size, the predominantly white voters of the small district electing two councilmen and the voters in the remainder of the city, containing a majority of blacks, electing seven. He also enjoined present incumbents from interfering with efforts of their successors to amend the City's charter to provide some such device for subsequent elections. The relief granted occasioned the City's appeal.
We think the "unconstitutional motivation" too remote from the judicial annexation decree, which firmly rested on non-racial grounds, to warrant a grant of any relief.
In Virginia, cities and counties are mutually exclusive. The area embraced within a city's limits is not a part of a county. Cities expand at the expense of the territory of an adjacent county, and Virginia has provided a judicial procedure as the means for extending the limits of cities.
Under the Virginia procedure, a city wishing to expand its territory must file an action in the Circuit Court of the county containing the coveted area. A special court of three judges is constituted; evidence is taken and the court decides whether or not some annexation is to be decreed. If some is to be ordered, the court fixes the new boundary between city and county and determines an amount of money to be paid by the city to the county for schools, utilities and other improvements which had been built and installed by the county. A city may reject such an award, but if it accepts it, the area defined in the decree, by virtue of it, is effectively detached from the county and annexed to the city as of the following January first.
Within this framework, after an abortive effort to merge the City of Richmond and Henrico County in 1961, Richmond, in January 1962, instituted judicial proceedings for the annexation of portions of Henrico and Chesterfield Counties.
The Henrico County case, in the Circuit Court of that County moved first, but not hastily. After the disposition of several motions and the denial by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals of writs of prohibition,1 the trial began in June 1963. There was a decree in April 1964 awarding 16.16 square miles to Richmond. That part of Henrico County was inhabited by 45,310 people, of whom 98.5 per cent were white. After further proceedings, the amount to be paid by Richmond was fixed at 55 million dollars.2 Because of the amount of that award, Richmond rejected it and abandoned the Henrico annexation proceeding.
The City of Richmond then concentrated on the Chesterfield case, pending in the Circuit Court of that County. An order granting a motion to dismiss was filed in March 1966, but was reversed, and the proceeding reinstated by the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.3 After further pretrial proceedings, the formal trial began in September 1968 and proceeded until January 9, 1969 when one of the judges disqualified himself and a mistrial was declared.
After the Court was constituted, Mayor Bagley of Richmond and Chairman Horner of the Board of Supervisors of Chesterfield County resumed settlement negotiations which earlier had been unproductive. In May 1969, they reached an agreement on a new boundary line and in June, on the amount of money to be paid by Richmond for the annexed area. The agreement, which also included a provision that the County would take no appeal from the annexation decree, was approved informally by a majority of Richmond's councilmen.
The judges and the lawyers all recognized that the settlement agreement was not binding upon the court. The statute4 requires judicial determination of the new boundary and appropriate compensation. Moreover, civic associations of Chesterfield County had intervened in the proceedings, and the intervenors did not subscribe to the settlement agreement. Thus, additional evidence, principally that which the intervenors wished to introduce, was taken, and the proceedings were concluded. The judges were obviously influenced by the settlement agreement for their annexation decree was in conformity with it.
The intervenors sought review by Virginia's Supreme Court of Appeals, but that court denied a writ of error on November 26, 1969, so that the decree became effective on January 1, 1970.
The District Court's grant of relief had as its foundation a finding that the settlement agreement was the product of racially oriented motivation. That finding rested principally upon the fact that everyone knew that the black population of Richmond had been growing, while the white population had been declining, and the further fact that by 1969 the blacks were no longer the minority and, without an infusion of new white voters, probably could control the councilmanic election scheduled to be held in 1970. The finding was also thought to be supported, to a lesser extent, by findings that a minority of the members of the Council had made extra-legislative statements of opposition to a black take-over of Richmond's government.
If legislative motivation is ever relevant, it surely is to be doubted that it may be proven by evidence of extra-legislative declarations of a minority of its members made in the context of partisan politics. We need not pause to explore that matter, however, for the District Judge said he attributed little weight to such statements, and it seems clear that he would have made the same findings without such evidence.
There were other subordinate findings.
First, there was a finding of "concern" on the part of officials of the City of Richmond, of Chesterfield County, and of the State "that the City of Richmond not become a city of the old, the poor and the Black." There is nothing sinister in such concern. It is simply recognition in Richmond of a problem common to most of our cities throughout the United States. As the more affluent residents move to suburbs, central cities encounter a multitude of problems, including a declining tax base with which to support services for which there is an ever increasing demand. Where it is practical, an obvious and traditional answer has been extension of the city's boundaries to encompass developing residential and industrial areas.
Second, the District Judge found that some, but not all, of those who expressed such concern were "inspired" by fear of a shift in control of Richmond's City Council. This is similar to the finding that some of the members of the Council were fearful of the results of the 1970 elections if there was not an infusion of new white voters.
In city political affairs, there were two contending factions. One known as "Richmond Forward" had the support of a majority of the white voters in the city. Of the nine members of the Council in 1969, six had been elected with the endorsement and backing of that group. The other faction known as "Crusade for Voters" had a wide appeal among Negro voters. Three members of the 1969 Council had been elected with the endorsement of that faction. The political leaders of the two factions conducted themselves as leaders of political parties do. We have no reason to doubt that the leaders of the "Richmond Forward" group entertained some fear that they and their party might be turned out of office. This, however, is the natural reaction of politicians in the face of an apparently growing strength of an opposing political party.
This concern about the results of the 1970 election had an immediate relevance to the annexation suit. The three councilmen elected with the support of the "Crusade" openly opposed any annexation. It was thought that this would be the position of other councilmen elected with the support of the "Crusade," and that if the "Crusade" could elect a majority of the Council in 1970, and the annexation had not by then been effected, all of the prolonged and strenuous efforts to enlarge Richmond's boundaries would have been frustrated.
Thus, one who felt that enlargement of Richmond's limits was a matter of great importance would have been concerned about the outcome of the 1970 election without the need of attribution to him of any covert or evil motive.
There was an ancillary finding that the three "Crusade" members of the Council were not brought into the informal discussions held in May and June, 1969. The fact is of little consequence, for there was nothing calling for action of the Council at that time. It was necessary to know whether an annexation decree entered in accordance with the agreement would be...
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