Liddell v. State of Mo.

Decision Date05 March 1984
Docket Number83-2033,Nos. 83-1957,83-2220,83-2140,83-2118,s. 83-1957
Citation731 F.2d 1294
Parties, 17 Ed. Law Rep. 86 Craton LIDDELL, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellees, v. STATE OF MISSOURI, et al., Defendants/Appellants. Craton LIDDELL, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellees, v. CITY OF ST. LOUIS, Plaintiff-Intervenor/Appellant. In re CITY OF ST. LOUIS, Paul Berra and Ronald A. Leggett, Petitioners. , and 83-2554.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Larry Marshall, Asst. Atty. Gen., Columbia, Mo., and Robert Dierker, Jr., Asst. City Counselor, City of St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo., for defendants/appellants.

Kenneth C. Brastron, William P. Russell, St. Louis, Mo., William L. Taylor, Center for National Policy Rev., Catholic University Law School, Washington, D.C., and John Gianoulakis, St. Louis, Mo., for plaintiffs/appellees.

Lay, Chief Judge, Heaney, Bright, Ross, McMillian, Arnold and Fagg, Circuit Judges, with John R. Gibson, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part, Bowman, Circuit Judge, dissenting.


The Caldwell and Liddell plaintiffs, representing black students and parents of the St. Louis City School District, the City School District, and several suburban school districts have entered into a unique and comprehensive settlement agreement designed to further desegregation in the city schools. The United States District Court has approved the agreement and has entered orders to fund the plan.

With the exceptions and limitations noted in the opinion, we approve the agreement and the order entered by the district court with respect to:

The voluntary transfers of students between the city and suburban schools and the establishment of additional magnet schools and integrative programs in the City School District as necessary to the successful desegregation of the city schools;

The quality education programs for the nonintegrated schools in the City School District;

The quality education programs for all schools in the City School District, but only insofar as these programs have been shown to be necessary for the city to retain its Class AAA rating or to be essential to the successful desegregation of the city schools as hereinafter set forth;

The provisions of the district court's order requiring the State of Missouri, as the primary constitutional violator, to pay the full cost of city to suburb and suburb to city transfers, magnet schools and integrative programs in the city schools, and one-half of the cost of the quality education programs in the city schools. We decline to approve the district court order insofar as it requires the State to fund student transfers between suburban school districts and to fund magnet schools or integrative programs in those suburban districts;

Improved facilities for the city schools. We require further planning, however, before construction begins, to identify with particularity the projects that will be undertaken, and to take account of a probable decline in the city school population in the next few years.

We outline the steps that the district court must take before it can require an increase in real estate taxes to fund the City Board's share of the quality education component of the plan without a vote of the people, and the steps that the court must take before it can require that bonds be issued to fund the City Board's share of capital improvements without a similar vote. We make it clear, however, that no party found to have violated the Constitution will be permitted to escape its obligation to provide equal educational opportunity to the black children of St. Louis.

We make it clear that the suburban schools meeting the goals set forth in the plan will receive a final judgment declaring that they have satisfied their desegregation obligations.

Finally, we recognize that the settlement agreement and the district court's order will have to be modified to conform to this opinion, and we are aware that the cost of the plan, particularly to the State, will be significantly reduced. In our view, however, the changes do not alter the essential character of the plan, and they preserve its constitutionality. The parties to the settlement agreement are required to decide promptly whether they will accept the changes set forth in this opinion. If they refuse to do so, the interdistrict trial will proceed.


In February, 1972, a group of black parents (the Liddell plaintiffs) filed a class action against the City Board, the board members, and school administrators, alleging racial segregation in the city's schools in violation of the fourteenth amendment. The defendants' motion to join the State of Missouri and St. Louis County (containing the suburban school districts) as codefendants was denied on December 1, 1973. A year later, the parties entered into a consent agreement which provided for an increase in the number of minority teachers and included a pledge by the City Board to attempt to "relieve the residence-based racial imbalance in the City schools." Liddell v. Bd. of Educ., 469 F.Supp. 1304, 1310 (E.D.Mo.1979).

The case first came before this Court in 1976, 1 when the Caldwell plaintiffs appealed the district court's denial of their right to intervene. We granted intervention, but declined to pass on the constitutionality of the consent decree. Liddell v. Caldwell, 546 F.2d 768 (8th Cir.) (Liddell I ), cert. denied, 433 U.S. 914, 97 S.Ct. 2987, 53 L.Ed.2d 1100 (1976). We encouraged the United States and State of Missouri to intervene, recommended the creation of a biracial citizens committee to assist in formulating a desegregation plan, and suggested voluntary interdistrict student transfers as one remedial tool. Id. at 774.

Desegregation plans were developed and submitted to the district court by the City Board, the Liddell plaintiffs, the Caldwell plaintiffs, and the United States as amicus curiae. Before approving any plan, the district court ordered a trial to determine whether there had been a constitutional violation and to frame a remedy if a violation was found. The United States, the City of St. Louis, and two white citizens' groups were allowed to intervene as plaintiffs. The State of Missouri, the State Board of Education, and the Commissioner of Education were added as defendants. The district court found no constitutional violation, and held that the City Board had achieved a unitary school system in 1954-56 through its "neighborhood school policy." Liddell v. Bd. of Educ., supra, 469 F.Supp. at 1360-1361.

We reversed the district court in Adams v. United States, 620 F.2d 1277 (8th Cir.) (en banc ), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 826, 101 S.Ct. 88, 66 L.Ed.2d 29 (1980), 2 holding that the City Board and the State were jointly responsible for maintaining a segregated school system. In reaching this decision, we noted that the Missouri State Constitution had mandated separate schools for "white and colored children" through 1976, that the State had not taken prompt and effective steps to desegregate the city schools after Brown v. Bd. of Educ., 347 U.S. 483, 74 S.Ct. 686, 98 L.Ed. 873 (1954) (Brown I ), and that the City Board's policies and practices since 1956 had contributed to the existing segregation. We remanded to the district court and directed that the schools be promptly desegregated. We suggested the following techniques:

(1) Developing and implementing compensatory and remedial educational programs. * * *

(2) Developing and implementing programs providing less than full-time integrated learning experiences.

(3) Developing and implementing a comprehensive program of exchanging and transferring students with the suburban school districts of St. Louis County. * * *

(4) Maintaining existing magnet and specialty schools, and establishing such additional schools as needed to expand opportunities for an integrated education.

(5) Establishing an Educational Park.

(6) Continuing and expanding a policy of permissive transfers in the district.

Adams v. United States, supra, 620 F.2d at 1296-1297 (citations omitted).

After holding extensive evidentiary hearings, the district court approved a system-wide desegregation plan for the city schools beginning with the 1980-81 school year. Liddell v. Bd. of Educ., 491 F.Supp. 351 (E.D.Mo.1980). This plan included a comprehensive program of exchanging and transferring students between the city and suburban schools, the establishment of magnet schools and integrative programs, and a quality education component. In approving the plan, the district court concluded:

In sum, the State defendants stand before the Court as primary constitutional wrongdoers who have abdicated their affirmative remedial duty. Their efforts to pass the buck among themselves and to other state instrumentalities must be rejected[.]

Id. at 359.

We affirmed the district court's plan on appeal. Liddell v. Bd. of Educ., 667 F.2d 643 (8th Cir.1981) (Liddell III ), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1081, 1091, 102 S.Ct. 634, 656, 70 L.Ed.2d 614, 629 (1982). In so doing, we decided that it was constitutionally permissible to allow a number of all-black schools to remain in the city. We noted that no all-white schools would remain, that a plan of voluntary interdistrict transfers would be initiated, that magnet schools and integrative programs would be established, and that a substantial part of the desegregation budget would be spent to improve the quality of education in the all-black schools. We affirmed the State's liability for desegregation costs and remanded for continued implementation of the plan.

Questions about this plan's implementation came before us in early 1982, when the State again protested its liability for certain desegregation costs. Liddell v. Bd. of Educ., 677 F.2d 626 (8th Cir.) (Liddell V ), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 877, 103 S.Ct. 172, 74 L.Ed.2d 142 (1982). 3 We affirmed the district...

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