Mo. State Conference of the Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People v. Ferguson-Florissant Sch. Dist., Case No. 4:14 CV 2077 RWS

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
Writing for the CourtRODNEY W. SIPPEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Citation201 F.Supp.3d 1006
Parties MISSOURI STATE CONFERENCE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. FERGUSON-FLORISSANT SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date22 August 2016
Docket NumberCase No. 4:14 CV 2077 RWS

201 F.Supp.3d 1006

MISSOURI STATE CONFERENCE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
FERGUSON-FLORISSANT SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

Case No. 4:14 CV 2077 RWS

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division.

Signed August 22, 2016


201 F.Supp.3d 1015

Anthony E. Rothert, Andrew J. McNulty, Jessie M. Steffan, Michael Keith Hill, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Foundation, St. Louis, MO, Dale E. Ho, Julie A. Ebenstein, Sophia Lin Lakin, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, NY, M. Laughlin McDonald, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, San Francisco, CA, Gillian R. Wilcox, American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, Kansas City, MO, for Plaintiffs.

Cindy Reeds Ormsby, Angela Bullock Gabel, Kathryn B. Forster, Crotzer and Ormsby, LLC, Darold E. Crotzer, Jr., Ford Law, Clayton, MO, John A. Safarli, Floyd and Pflueger, P.S., Seattle, WA, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RODNEY W. SIPPEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiffs Doris Bailey, Redditt Hudson, F. Willis Johnson, and the Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("MO NAACP") bring suit against Defendants Ferguson-Florissant School District ("FFSD" or "the District") and the St. Louis County Board of Elections Commissioners ("St. Louis BOEC") under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. § 10301. Plaintiffs contend that the electoral structures used in Ferguson-Florissant School Board ("the Board" or "FFSB") elections interact with historical and socioeconomic conditions to deprive the African American voters in FFSD of an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act provides that no "standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." 52 U.S.C.A. § 10301(a). A § 2 violation:

is established if, based on the totality of circumstances, it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election in the State or political subdivision are not equally open to participation by members of a class of citizens protected by subsection (a) in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. The extent to which members of a protected class have been elected to office in the State or political subdivision is one circumstance which may be considered: Provided, That nothing in this section establishes a right to have members of a protected class elected in numbers equal to their proportion in the population.

52 U.S.C.A. § 10301(b).

To establish a claim of vote dilution under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act, plaintiffs must first establish the following three "preconditions" pursuant to the United States Supreme Court's decision in Thornburg v. Gingles , 478 U.S. 30, 106 S.Ct. 2752, 92 L.Ed.2d 25 (1986) :

1. "[T]he minority group...is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district,"

2. "[T]he minority group...is politically cohesive," and

3. "[T]he white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it—in the absence
201 F.Supp.3d 1016
of special circumstances...—usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate."

Id. at 50–51, 106 S.Ct. 2752.

If all three preconditions are established, then a court must "consider the 'totality of the circumstances' and [ ] determine, based 'upon a searching practical evaluation of the past and present reality,' whether the political process is equally open to minority voters." Id. at 79, 106 S.Ct. 2752 (internal citations and quotations omitted). " 'This determination is peculiarly dependent upon the facts of each case,' and requires 'an intensely local appraisal of the design and impact' of the contested electoral mechanisms." Id. In undertaking this practical evaluation, courts look to the non-exhaustive list of "typical factors" identified in the Senate Report accompanying the 1982 amendments to the VRA ("Senate Factors"), see S. Rep. No. 97-417, at 28-29.

I held a six day non-jury trial in this matter beginning on January 11, 2016. The parties filed post-trial briefs and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law on April 8, 2016. On April 22, 2016, the parties filed responses to each other's post-trial briefs. Also on April 22, 2016, the District filed a motion to re-open the case for additional evidence, in which it asks me to take judicial notice of the election results from the April 5, 2016 school board election in FFSD. On April 26, 2016, Plaintiffs responded to the District's motion to re-open the case, stating that they do not oppose the motion, but requesting that I take judicial notice of additional facts related to the 2016 election.

After consideration of the testimony given at trial, the exhibits introduced into evidence, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, I make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law. As discussed below, I conclude that Plaintiffs have established a § 2 violation.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Parties

The individual Plaintiffs are U.S. citizens, registered voters, and African Americans who reside in areas of FFSD that could constitute single-member districts in which African Americans are a majority of the voting-age population. Joint Stip. ¶¶ 2-4.

Plaintiff MO NAACP is a state affiliate of the NAACP. The NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. The mission of the NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons, to eliminate hatred and racial discrimination, and to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes. Plaintiff MO NAACP is active in efforts to increase voter registration, education, and turnout, and emphasizes the importance of local elections, including local school board elections. Joint Stip. ¶¶ 5-6. The membership of the MO NAACP includes African Americans who reside, work, and raise families in the District and in areas of the District that could constitute single-member districts in which African Americans are a majority of the voting-age population. See PLTF-117, Hudson Decl., ¶¶ 1, 3-4; PLTF-119, Pruitt Decl., ¶ 4; Trial Tr. vol. 1, 20:23-21:2 (testimony of Adolphus Pruitt); Trial Tr. vol. 4, 86:6-8 (testimony of Redditt Hudson).

Defendant FFSD is a governmental entity that maintains an electoral system based on at-large elections for seven positions on the FFSB. The Board is responsible for the governance and administration of FFSD, a political subdivision of the State of Missouri within the meaning of Article 4, Section 12, of the Missouri Constitution. Joint Stip. ¶ 7.

Defendant St. Louis BOEC is the governmental entity charged with conducting

201 F.Supp.3d 1017

elections in St. Louis County. It is responsible for conducting elections for positions on the Board in FFSD. Joint Stip. ¶ 8.

FFSD is located in northern St. Louis County, Missouri ("North County"). The District was created by a 1975 desegregation order, which required the then-Ferguson-Florissant School District to annex the primarily African American neighboring school district of Kinloch and primarily white neighboring district of Berkeley. Joint Stip. ¶ 9; see also United States v. Missouri , 515 F.2d 1365, 1369–73 (8th Cir.1975). The District covers all or part of eleven municipalities: Berkeley, Calverton Park, Cool Valley, and Kinloch in their entirety, and parts of Black Jack (one block), Ferguson, Florissant, Dellwood, Hazelwood, Normandy, and Old Jamestown. Joint Stip. ¶ 11. Its headquarters and administration center are in Florissant. Id. The City of Florissant comprises the largest portion of the District while the City of Ferguson comprises the second largest portion of the District. Joint Stip. ¶¶ 9, 11.

B. Expert Witnesses

The following witnesses provided expert testimony for Plaintiffs. William Cooper1 testified as to "whether it is possible to create four majority-Black districts," and as to the historical and current demographics in the District. He also compiled population demographics as reported by the 2010 census. PLTF-44, Cooper Report , ¶9-10. Dr. Colin Gordon testified to Senate Factor 5. PLTF-40, Gordon Report.2 Dr. David Kimball testified to Senate Factors Two, Three, Four, Five, Seven, Eight and Nine.3 PLTF-48, Kimball Report , p. 14. Dr. Richard Engstrom testified to the existence of racially polarized voting. PLTF-50, Engstrom Report , ¶5.

FFSD called one expert, Dr. Jonathan Rodden, to testify to all three Gingles preconditions. DEF-A, Rodden Report , p. 2. Rodden provided rebuttal reports to each of Plaintiffs' four experts including the Gingles preconditions and Senate factors. See DEF-B in response to Engstrom's Report , DEF-C in response to Cooper's Report and DEF-D in response to ...

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    ...five endogenous elections. (Doc. No. 137 at 14 (citing 291 F.Supp.3d 1130 Mo. State Conf. of NAACP v. Ferguson–Florissant Sch. Dist. , 201 F.Supp.3d 1006, 1059 (E.D. Mo. 2016) (explaining the court "need not supplement endogenous election data" from five elections where the evidence was suf......
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    ...as the district court pointed out, "Dassey's confession was, as a practical matter, the entirety of the case against him." Dassey , 201 F.Supp.3d at 1006. Despite the intensity of the investigation, the brutality of the crime and the disarray of the premises, no one ever found a single hair......
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    ...(N.D.N.Y. Jan. 28, 2014) (describing ACS data as "less reliable"); Mo. State Conf. of the NAACP v. Ferguson-Florissant Sch. Dist. , 201 F. Supp. 3d 1006, 1022 (E.D. Mo. 2016), aff'd , 894 F.3d 924 (8th Cir. 2018) ("Because ACS population estimates are based on a sample, they are subject to ......
  • Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP v. Jindal, CIVIL ACTION NO. 14–0069–JJB–EWD
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    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Louisiana
    • August 17, 2017
    ..., 461 F.3d 1011, 1019 (8th Cir. 2006) (emphasis in original): Mo. State Conf. of the NAACP v. Ferguson–Florissant School Dist. , 201 F.Supp.3d 1006, 1031 (E.D. Mo. 2016). While the Court recognizes there is no requirement to undertake an effectiveness inquiry at the liability stage, the Cou......
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8 cases
  • Luna v. Cnty. of Kern, No. 1:16–cv–00568–DAD–JLT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 23, 2018
    ...five endogenous elections. (Doc. No. 137 at 14 (citing 291 F.Supp.3d 1130 Mo. State Conf. of NAACP v. Ferguson–Florissant Sch. Dist. , 201 F.Supp.3d 1006, 1059 (E.D. Mo. 2016) (explaining the court "need not supplement endogenous election data" from five elections where the evidence was suf......
  • Dassey v. Dittmann, No. 16-3397
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • June 22, 2017
    ...as the district court pointed out, "Dassey's confession was, as a practical matter, the entirety of the case against him." Dassey , 201 F.Supp.3d at 1006. Despite the intensity of the investigation, the brutality of the crime and the disarray of the premises, no one ever found a single hair......
  • McConchie v. Scholz, Case No. 21-cv-3091
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • October 19, 2021
    ...(N.D.N.Y. Jan. 28, 2014) (describing ACS data as "less reliable"); Mo. State Conf. of the NAACP v. Ferguson-Florissant Sch. Dist. , 201 F. Supp. 3d 1006, 1022 (E.D. Mo. 2016), aff'd , 894 F.3d 924 (8th Cir. 2018) ("Because ACS population estimates are based on a sample, they are subject to ......
  • Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP v. Jindal, CIVIL ACTION NO. 14–0069–JJB–EWD
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Louisiana
    • August 17, 2017
    ..., 461 F.3d 1011, 1019 (8th Cir. 2006) (emphasis in original): Mo. State Conf. of the NAACP v. Ferguson–Florissant School Dist. , 201 F.Supp.3d 1006, 1031 (E.D. Mo. 2016). While the Court recognizes there is no requirement to undertake an effectiveness inquiry at the liability stage, the Cou......
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