Sandoval v. Hagan, Civ.A. 96-D-1875-N.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
Citation7 F.Supp.2d 1234
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A. 96-D-1875-N.,Civ.A. 96-D-1875-N.
PartiesMartha SANDOVAL, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. L.N. HAGAN, in his official capacity as the Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, and the Alabama Department of Public Safety, Defendants.
Decision Date01 January 1999

J. Richard Cohen, Rhonda Brownstein, Marcia Bull Stadeker, Ellen M. Bowden, Mary Beth Schultz, Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, AL, Shannon L. Holliday, Alabama Civil Liberties Union, Montgomery, AL, Edward M. Chen, American Civil Liberties Union, Foundation of Northern California, Inc., San Francisco, CA, Christopher Ho, San Francisco, CA, for Martha Sandoval.

Robert E. Morrow, Dept. of Public Safety Legal Unit, Montgomery, AL, John J. Park, Jr., Office of Atty. Gen., Montgomery, AL, for L.N. Hagan, Alabama Department of Public Safety.

MEMORANDUM OPINION, JUDGMENT, DECLARATION, ORDER AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION
                                                      TABLE OF CONTENTS
                I.   INTRODUCTION ................................................................... 1242
                II.  STANDARD OF REVIEW FOR BENCH TRIALS, AND THE GRANTING
                       OF PERMANENT INJUNCTIVE RELIEF ............................................... 1245
                     A. Bench Trials ................................................................ 1245
                     B. Permanent Injunctive Relief ................................................. 1245
                III. DISCUSSION ..................................................................... 1246
                     A. Motion For Leave To Amend The Complaint ..................................... 1246
                     B. Application Of Title VI ..................................................... 1247
                         1. The Department is a recipient of federal funds within the meaning
                              of Title VI ........................................................... 1249
                         2. The regulations enacted pursuant to Title VI (§ 2000d-1) allow for
                              a private right of action ............................................. 1251
                         3. Plaintiffs have the requisite standing to bring suit .................... 1265
                         4. The Eleventh Amendment does not bar Plaintiffs' suit .................... 1268
                     C. Findings Of Fact And Conclusions Of Law ..................................... 1277
                         1. Legal Framework ......................................................... 1277
                
                         2. Plaintiffs have established by a preponderance of the evidence that
                              they are members of a class protected by the statute and that
                              Defendants have promulgated a facially neutral practice that has
                              a disproportionate adverse effect ..................................... 1278
                            a. Plaintiffs are members of a class protected by the statute ........... 1278
                            b. The Defendants have promulgated a facially neutral practice
                                 that has a disproportionate adverse effect ......................... 1283
                                 i. Implementation and review of the Department's English-Only
                                      Policy ........................................................ 1284
                                ii. The Department's accommodation of English speaking
                                      applicants .................................................... 1287
                               iii. Impact of the Department's English-Only Policy .................. 1291
                         3. The Defendants have not proven that there exists a "substantial
                              legitimate justification" for the English-Only Policy in order to
                              avoid liability. Alternatively, if the Defendants have met this
                              burden, the Plaintiffs have offered comparably effective alternative
                              practices which result in less disproportionality ..................... 1298
                            a. The English-Only Policy is not required by Amendment 509 ............. 1298
                            b. The Defendants have offered no proof that resident non-English
                                 speakers are a greater safety risk on Alabama
                                 highways than English speakers ..................................... 1300
                            c. The Defendants' arguments regarding the administration and
                                 application of foreign language examinations are unpersuasive ...... 1302
                                i. Examination administration ....................................... 1303
                               ii. Examination integrity ............................................ 1306
                            d. Congress has never declared English to be the official language
                                 of the United States, consequently the Department's
                                 English-Only Policy is not a reflection of national policy
                                 and, even if it were, does not justify the Policy .................. 1308
                            e. The Defendants' fiscal arguments fail ................................ 1311
                IV.  CONCLUSION, JUDGMENT, AND DECLARATION .......................................... 1313
                V.   ORDER .......................................................................... 1315
                

DE MENT, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION1

Like forty-eight other states and the District of Columbia, the State of Alabama has historically administered the written portion of its Class D driver's license examination in a multitude of foreign languages. From at least the 1970's until 1991, Alabama's Department of Public Safety (the "Department") administered thousands of written examinations in at least fourteen languages other than English. Former Alabama State Trooper, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Hammond, Chief of the Department's Driver's License Division from 1978 to 1987 and second-in-command of the entire Department from 1987 to 1991, testified that there were no significant problems in administering the examination. There was no evidence that non-English speakers were more likely to cheat. Translations of the English examination were obtained at no cost to the Department. There was no evidence that non-English speakers posed a greater safety risk or had more accidents than other motorists. Although some examiners complained that foreign language examinations were time consuming, the Department provided, and still provides, special accommodations to handicapped applicants, to illiterate applicants by administering oral or audio-taped examinations, and to deaf applicants by administering Sign Language videotaped examinations. Colonel Hammond never considered curtailing or ending foreign language examinations and in fact expanded the program whenever demand was great enough. When asked if he knew of any reason why the State should not continue providing foreign language examinations, he answered "no."

In 1990, the Alabama legislature ratified Amendment 509 to the Alabama Constitution. The Amendment designates English as the "official language of the State of Alabama" and requires state officials to take "all steps necessary to ensure that the role of English as the common language of the state of Alabama is preserved and enhanced." Approximately one year later, because of Amendment 509, the Department adopted its "English-Only Policy," requiring all portions of the examination process, including the written examination, to be administered in English only. Interpreters, translation dictionaries and other interpretive aids were officially forbidden. In practice, however, many of the Driver's License Divisions's branch offices still allow applicants to utilize interpreters for some portions of the examination process, and routinely allow the use of translation dictionaries for the written examination. In addition, the evidence before the court shows that Alabama provides special accommodations during the driver's examination process for illiterate applicants, and handicapped applicants, including those that are deaf. Alabama also permits non-English speaking drivers from other states and foreign countries to drive in Alabama if they have a valid license, and, upon moving to Alabama, allows these driver's to exchange their out-of-state license for an Alabama license without requiring them to take the Department's driving examination. Despite providing special accommodations for all of these categories of drivers, Alabama provides no accommodations for its non-English speaking residents.

Eight months after the implementation of the Department's English-only policy, the Department requested an opinion from Alabama's Attorney General regarding "whether Amendment No. 509 ... prohibits the Department from giving driver license tests in any language other than English." Although the request was signed by the Director of the Department, it was actually written by Mr. Jack Curtis, the Department's General Counsel and an Assistant Attorney General. When the Attorney General's office received the request for an opinion, the project was assigned to Mr. Curtis. In other words, Mr. Curtis, in his capacities as an Assistant Attorney General and General Counsel of the Department, both drafted the request for an opinion and wrote the Opinion itself.

The Attorney General concluded that Amendment 509 required all applicants for driver's licenses to take the examination in English. Although the Attorney General's Opinion acknowledged that the Department's English-Only Policy "might be a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, consideration of safety and integrity of the licensing process would, [in the words of the Opinion], support a requirement that driver licensing examinations be given in English ." "Safety and integrity" were provided as rationales for the policy without there being any evidence that non-English speakers were a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
17 cases
6 books & journal articles
  • Addressing the problem: the judicial branches
    • United States
    • Environmental justice: legal theory and practice - second edition
    • May 23, 2012
    ...of Alabama found that the State’s policy created a discriminatory disparate impact on the basis of national origin. Sandoval v. Hagan , 7 F. Supp. 2d 1234 (M.D. Ala. 1999). Therefore, the District Court granted Plaintiffs’motion for a permanent injunction enjoining the State of Alabama from......
  • Addressing the Problem: The Judicial Branches
    • United States
    • Environmental justice: legal theory and practice. 3rd Edition
    • November 20, 2014
    ...policy in question. 43 38. 42 U.S.C. §2000d (1988) (emphasis added). 39. See 40 C.F.R. §7.25. 40. Id. 41. Id . 42. Sandoval v. Hagan, 7 F. Supp. 2d 1234, 1278 (M.D. Ala. 1998). 43. Georgia State Conf. of Branches of NAACP v. Georgia, 775 F.2d 1403, 1418 (11th Cir. 1985). Page 368 Environmen......
  • Addressing the Problem: The Judicial Branches
    • United States
    • Environmental justice: legal theory and practice. 4th edition
    • February 20, 2018
    ...VI has been underemphasized and underutilized in the siting of pollu- 41. See 40 C.F.R. §7.25. 42. Id . 43. Id . 44. Sandoval v. Hagan, 7 F. Supp. 2d 1234, 1278 (M.D. Ala. 1998). 45. Georgia State Conf. of Branches of NAACP v. Georgia, 775 F.2d 1403, 1418 (11th Cir. 1985). 46. 40 C.F.R. §7.......
  • Addressing The Problem: The Judicial Branches
    • United States
    • Environmental justice: legal theory and practice
    • February 17, 2009
    ...The District Court agreed. It enjoined the policy and ordered the Department to accommodate non-English speakers. Sandoval v. Hagan , 7 F. Supp. 2d 1234 (M.D. Ala. 1998). Petitioners appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which affirmed Sandoval v. Hagan , 197 F.3d 484 (......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT