Tasby v. Wright

Decision Date27 August 1982
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 3-4211-H.
Citation550 F. Supp. 262
PartiesEddie Mitchell TASBY, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Dr. Linus WRIGHT, General Superintendent, Dallas Independent School District, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Edward B. Cloutman, III, Mullinax, Wells, Baab, Cloutman & Chapman, Patrick A. White, Dallas Legal Services Foundation, Inc., Dallas, Tex., for plaintiffs.

Mark Martin and Robert H. Thomas, Strasburger & Price, Dallas, Tex., for DISD, Wright, et al.

Thomas I. Atkins, Gen. Counsel NAACP Special Contribution Fund, New York City, Ernest Lemuel Haywood, DeSoto, Tex., for NAACP (intervenor).

James A. Donohoe, Gardere & Wynne, Dallas, Tex., for Brinegar, et al. (intervenor).

Robert L. Blumenthal and John Martin and George Kryder, Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, Dallas, Tex., for Curry, et al. (intervenors).

H. Ron White, H. Ron White & Associates, Dallas, Tex., for Dallas Alliance (amicus curiae).

E. Brice Cunningham, Dallas, Tex., for Cunningham and Dockery (intervenors).

Joan T. Winn, Dallas, Tex., for Black Coalition to Maximize Educ. (intervenor).

AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING ATTORNEYS' FEES

SANDERS, District Judge.

This school desegregation case is once again before the Court, this time on the several applications for attorneys' fees filed by Plaintiffs Tasby, et al., and Intervenors NAACP, Black Coalition to Maximize Education, and Cunningham. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court is of the opinion that the applicants are prevailing parties and are entitled to recover reasonable attorneys' fees and necessary expenses from Defendant Dallas Independent School District ("DISD").

Background

The Court's task is to decide reasonable attorney's fees in proceedings which have spanned more than a decade. Only one award of attorneys' fees has been made — in 1976 to Plaintiffs' attorneys, Mr. Edward Cloutman and Ms. Sylvia Demarest, in the amount of $88,038.80, for services since the suit was filed in 1970. Many parties and a multitude of complex legal and factual issues have been before the Court since the inception of this litigation. Scores of hearings have been held and numerous rulings and opinions have been announced.

This case has been pending in one form or another since it was originally filed in October 1970 by Plaintiffs Tasby, et al., seeking an injunction requiring a comprehensive desegregation plan for the Dallas Independent School District. A brief summary of the history of the case is set forth in this Court's Opinion in Tasby v. Wright, 520 F.Supp. 683, 686-688 (N.D.Tex.1981). However, determination of the pending fee applications requires a somewhat more detailed history in order to set the stage for evaluation of the applications.

The original 1970 action was tried in July 1971 and the Court (Taylor, J.) decided that "elements of a dual system still remain" in DISD. Tasby v. Estes, 342 F.Supp. 945, 947, aff'd in part, rev'd in part, and remanded with directions, 517 F.2d 92 (5th Cir.1975). Judge Taylor ordered a limited desegregation plan which was the subject of appeals to the Fifth Circuit in 1971. The Fifth Circuit did not decide the case until 1975 when it disapproved Judge Taylor's limited desegregation plan and ordered the formulation of a new student assignment plan. 517 F.2d 92.

Pursuant to the remand, the Court held extensive hearings at which it considered six desegregation plans presented by the parties and amici curiae. The Court adopted a plan submitted by the Dallas Alliance and ordered DISD to plan the assignment details which were incorporated into a final Order entered April 7, 1976. The essential features of the Alliance plan may be summarized in the following fashion. The school district was carved into six subdistricts; four of the subdistricts were geographically structured in such a way that their enrollments reflected the same racial composition as the overall school district, plus or minus five percent; another, East Oak Cliff, was predominantly black; and the sixth, Seagoville, was predominantly anglo and rural. (Seagoville's total enrollment represented a very small portion of the DISD student population.)

Within each of the subdistricts, students in grades kindergarten through three (K-3) were assigned according to then-existing assignment patterns, with special emphasis placed on compensatory education involving individualized, diagnostic-prescriptive methods of instruction. In grades 4-8, satellite zoning and mandatory transportation (involving over 15,000 students) were used to establish desegregated schools located around the center of each subdistrict. In grades 9-12, magnet schools and majority-to-minority transfer options were the principal tools of desegregation, leaving students who declined to opt for one of these programs attending the high school in their regular neighborhood attendance zones. Exceptions to the general student assignment patterns were made for students who resided in areas which were considered integrated by residential housing patterns and for students in the East Oak Cliff and Seagoville subdistricts.

The April 1976 Order was initially appealed to the Fifth Circuit by the Intervenor NAACP on the grounds that the plan instituted by the Court effected inadequate desegregation in grades K-3 and 9-12, that it created a segregated, all-black subdistrict in East Oak Cliff, and that it established a facility in the A. Harris shopping center (now the Nolan Estes Center) with an all-black attendance area. Plaintiffs Tasby, et al., subsequently joined the appeal but limited their protest to the inadequacy of the high school (9-12) desegregation plan. On April 21, 1978, the Fifth Circuit again remanded the case and directed this Court to make specific findings justifying the maintenance of any one race schools in DISD and addressing the feasibility of using the desegregation techniques (i.e., mandatory transportation) approved in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S.Ct. 1267, 28 L.Ed.2d 554 (1971) to eliminate any one-race schools. Tasby v. Estes, 572 F.2d 1010, 1018 (5th Cir.1978). In particular, the Circuit expressed concern about the number of one race schools in grades K-3 and 9-12, and in East Oak Cliff. The Circuit also ordered a reevaluation of the magnet school concept and consideration of assigning anglo students to the A. Harris Center.

The Fifth Circuit opinion was appealed by DISD and two intervenors aligned with the DISD to the Supreme Court of the United States which granted certiorari on February 21, 1979. After oral argument the Supreme Court on January 21, 1980, dismissed the grant of certiorari as improvidently granted, thus returning the case once again to this Court. 444 U.S. 437, 100 S.Ct. 716, 62 L.Ed.2d 626 (1980). Thereafter, Judge Taylor ordered time and distance studies and directed the parties to negotiate in an effort to reach an agreement on a desegregation plan; those negotiations were unsuccessful. Trial was set for March 30, 1981. On March 20, 1981, however, Judge Taylor recused himself in response to a disqualification motion filed by the Intervenor NAACP and the case was assigned to the undersigned Judge for trial. Trial commenced April 27 and concluded May 22, 1981.

On August 3, 1981, this Court (Sanders, J.) issued its opinion which concluded "that vestiges of state-imposed racial segregation remained in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD)." Tasby v. Wright, 520 F.Supp. at 686. In addition, the Court held that "additional systemwide transportation is not a feasible remedy for the existing constitutional violation," and that other effective remedies could be developed. The Court directed the parties to submit desegregation plans in accordance with guidelines set out in the Opinion. Proposed desegregation plans were filed by DISD, by Intervenor Black Coalition, and jointly by the Plaintiffs and Intervenor NAACP. A major provision of the DISD plan involved a concept entitled "Minority Neighborhood Option Plan" (MNOP) which would have allowed minority children to choose whether or not to be transported to desegregated schools in grades 4 through 8. This provision was vigorously opposed by Plaintiffs and Intervenor NAACP. In November 1981 the Court held several extensive settlement conferences with those parties who had submitted desegregation plans. Those conferences culminated in a Stipulation filed December 2, 1981, which resolved many of the issues that had been in dispute. On December 7, 1981, the Court ruled that the MNOP was not an acceptable desegregation remedy within the constraints of the Fifth Circuit remand. Hearing then proceeded on the proposed desegregation plans; on December 21, 1981, the Court issued its Order outlining the major elements of the desegregation plan which had been adopted by the Court. On February 1, 1982, a Final Judgment was entered from which several parties now appeal.

The matter of attorneys fees has been before the Court on other occasions, but only one award has been made. On July 20, 1976, Judge Taylor rendered a Memorandum Opinion awarding attorneys' fees, costs and expenses to Plaintiffs Tasby, et al., as the prevailing parties in the case. Tasby v. Estes, 416 F.Supp. 644, 648 (N.D.Tex.1976). On May 4, 1978, the NAACP filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs covering the period from July 29, 1975, through May 3, 1978. On March 12, 1980, the NAACP filed a "consolidated amended motion" for attorneys' fees, seeking such fees for the period through January 21, 1980. On August 7, 1980, Judge Taylor conducted a hearing on the motions (as well as motions for further attorneys' fees filed by the plaintiffs) and received a Stipulation of the parties. The Stipulation acknowledged certain figures as reasonable hourly rates "if attorneys' fees should be calculated at an hourly rate." It also established the...

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