Mayor of City of Philadelphia v. Educational Equality League 8212 1264

Decision Date25 March 1974
Docket NumberNo. 72,72
Citation415 U.S. 605,94 S.Ct. 1323,39 L.Ed.2d 630
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

The Mayor of Philadelphia is empowered by the city charter to appoint a Nominating Panel, which in turn submits to him nominees to fill vacancies on the School Board. The Panel consists of 13 members. The Mayor must appoint four members from the citizenry at large; each of the remaining nine must be the highest ranking officer of one of nine designated categories of citywide organizations. A new Panel is convened in every odd-numbered year. Respondents brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief charging that Mayor Tate had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating against Negroes in appointments to the 1971 Panel. Following hearings, the District Court found that respondents had failed to prove racial discrimination and dismissed their complaint. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that respondents had established an unrebutted prima facie case of unlawful exclusion of Negroes from consideration for service on the 1971 Panel. Although Tate was succeeded, while the case was sub judice, by Mayor Rizzo (as to whose Panel appointment practices the record is silent), the court directed the issuance of certain injunctive relief against Rizzo with regard to the 1973 Panel and future Panels. Held:

1. The Mayor's principal argument, that federal courts may not interfere with the discretionary appointment powers of an elected executive officer, is of greater importance than was accorded it by the Court of Appeals, but the argument need not be addressed here since the record is devoid of reliable proof of racial discrimination. Pp. 613—616.

2. The Court of Appeals' finding of racial discrimination rests on ambiguous testimony as to a statement in 1969 by then Mayor Tate with regard to the 1969 School Board, not the 1971 Panel; the unawareness of certain organizations on the part of a city official who did not have final authority over the challenged appointments; and percentage comparisons the District Court correctly rejected as meaningless in the context of this case. The Court of Appeals therefore erred in overturning the District Court's findings and conclusions. Pp. 616—621.

3. The Court of Appeals erred in ordering injunctive relief against Mayor Rizzo with regard to the 1973 Panel and future Panels since the record speaks solely to the appointment practices of Tate, his predecessor, who left office in 1972. Pp. 621—623.

4. The principal issue throughout this litigation has been whether Mayor Tate violated the Fourteenth Amendment. There is no basis for remanding the case to the District Court for resolution of peripheral state law issues under that court's pendent jurisdiction or, alternatively, for abstention so that the case may be tried anew in a state court. Pp. 623—629.

3 Cir., 472 F.2d 612, reversed.

John Mattioni, Philadelphia, Pa., for petitioner.

Edwin D. Wolf, Philadelphia, Pa., for respondents.

Mr. Justice POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1965 the voters of Philadelphia approved a public education supplement to their city charter establishing the present structure of the Philadelphia Board of Education (the School Board or Board). The supplement, which appears as Art. XII of the city charter,1 vests in the Mayor a double appointment power with regard to the School Board. The Mayor appoints the nine members of the Board, but he is assisted in that task by another entity that he also appoints, the Educational Nominating Panel (the Nominating Panel or Panel). The function of the Panel is to seek out qualified candidates for service on the School Board by polling civic organizations and the citizenry at large, to interview those candidates, to deliberate on their qualifications, and to submit selected nominees to the Mayor. The Panel submits three nominees for every vacancy on the Board. In his discretion, the Mayor may request an additional three nominees per vacancy. The Mayor must then make appointments to the School Board from among the nominees submitted by the Panel.

The Nominating Panel consists of 13 members. Under the terms of the city charter, the Mayor appoints four members of the Panel from the citizenry at large. Each of the remaining members must be the highest ranking officer of one of nine categories of citywide organizations or institutions, such as a labor union council, a commerce organization, a public school parent-teacher association, a degree-granting institution of higher learning, and the like. 2 Although the city charter describes with substantial specificity the nine categories of organizations or institutions whose leaders may serve on the Nominating Panel, the charter does not designate any particular organization or institution by name. Accordingly, it is possible for more than one such citywide entity to qualify under any given category.

The members of the Nominating Panel serve two-year terms. A new Panel is appointed and convened in every odd-numbered year, when, in the ordinary course, three vacancies occur on the School Board.3 Thus, since 1965 there have been five Panels. Mayor James J. H. Tate, whose term expired in 1972, appointed the 1965, 1967, 1969, and 1971 Panels. The present Mayor, Frank Rizzo, appointed the 1973 Panel.

Respondents include the Educational Equality League,4 the president of the League, another citizen of Philadelphia, and two students attending the city's public schools. Shortly after Mayor Tate's appointment of the 1971 Nominating Panel, respondents filed this suit as a class action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, relying on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3). The gravamen of their complaint, which named the Mayor of Philadelphia and the Nominating Panel as defendants, was that Mayor Tate had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating against Negroes in his appointments to the 1971 Panel. Respondents sought an injunction barring the 1971 Panel from submitting nominees for the Board to the Mayor and a declaratory judgment that Mayor Tate had violated the Constitution. They also requested an order directing the Mayor to appoint a Nominating Panel 'fairly representative of the racial composition of the school community.'

Respondents did not challenge the racial composition of the School Board, which consisted of two Negroes and seven whites when respondents filed their complaint and which now consists of three Negroes and six whites.5 They did not allege that the 1971 Panel discriminated in its submission of School Board nominees to the Mayor.6 Such an attack would have been difficult to mount in any event. Of the nine nominees submitted to the Mayor by the 1971 Panel, four were Negroes and five were whites.7 Moreover, respondents did not dispute the validity of the qualifications set forth in the city charter with regard to the Nominating Panel. Finally, despite the prayer in their complaint for an order directing the appointment of a Panel 'fairly representative of the racial composition of the school community . . .,' respondents disclaimed any effort to impose a racial quota on the Mayor in his appointments to the Panel.8 Respondents sought solely to establish that the Mayor unconstitutionally excluded qualified Negroes from consideration for membership on the Nominating Panel and to remedy that alleged defect prospectively as well as retrospectively.9

Following two days of hearings, the District Court dismissed respondents' complaint. Educational Equality League v. Tate, 333 F.Supp. 1202 (ED Pa.1971). In its findings of fact, the court noted that approximately 34% of the population of Philadelphia and approximately 60% of the students attending the city's various schools were Negroes. Id., at 1202—1204. The court found the following racial composition of the Nominating Panels from 1965 to 1971: the 1965 Panel had 10 whites and three Negroes; the 1967 Panel had 11 whites and two Negroes; the 1969 Panel had 12 whites and one Negro; and the 1971 Panel had 11 whites and two Negroes.10 Id., at 1204. The court further found that 'several organizations reflecting the views and participation of the black community' could qualify as organizations whose highest ranking officers might serve on the Nominating Panel. Ibid. The court also found that Deputy Mayor Zecca, the person assigned by Mayor Tate to assist in selecting qualifying organizations and institutions, at the time of the hearing was unaware of the existence of many of these 'black organizations.' Ibid.

On the basis of its finding of fact, the District Court concluded that respondents had failed to prove that the 1971 Panel was appointed in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. It held that differences between the percentage of Negroes in the city's population (34%) or in the student body of the public school system (60%) and the percentage of Negroes on the 1971 Nominating Panel (15%) had no significance. Id., at 1205—1207. In large part this was because the number of positions on the Panel was too small to provide a reliable sample; the addition or subtraction of a single Negro meant an 8% change in racial composition. Id., at 1206. The court also rejected as unreliable data submitted by respondents in an effort to show that Mayor Tate's appointments to various positions in the city government other than the Panel reflected a disproportionately low percentage of Negroes and a pattern of discrimination. Ibid. Moreover, the ocurt dismissed as inadmissible hearsay a 1969 newspaper account of an alleged statement by Mayor Tate that at that time he would appoint no more Negroes to the School Board. Ibid.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed. Educational Equality League v. Tate, 472 F.2d 612 (1973).11...

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