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BOARD EDUCATION CITY LOS ANGELES v. SUPERIOR COURT CALIFORNIA

decided: September 12, 1980.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF CITY OF LOS ANGELES
v.
SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES (CRAWFORD ET AL., REAL PARTIES IN INTEREST)



ON APPLICATION FOR STAY.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist, Circuit Justice.

Author: Rehnquist

[ 448 U.S. Page 1343]

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST, Circuit Justice.

 The Board of Education of the Los Angeles Unified School District requests that I stay an order of the California Supreme Court, dated August 27, 1980, which left standing an order of the Superior Court of the State of California for Los Angeles County requiring mandatory reassignment of between 80,000 and 100,000 first- through ninth-grade students attending approximately 165 elementary and junior high schools pending consideration by this Court of its petition for certiorari. On July 7, 1980, the Superior Court entered its final remedial order in this action, finding that the Board had participated in racial discriminatory practices which led to the segregation in the school district and requiring the Board to implement a mandatory busing plan pursuant to guidelines contained in the order. The Board applied to the

[ 448 U.S. Page 1344]

     Court of Appeal of California to stay the Superior Court's order and, on August 6, 1980, that court partially stayed the order insofar as it relied on a definition of a desegregated school as one where there is a plurality of white students not in excess of 5% over the next largest ethnic group in the school and insofar as it required mandatory busing of students currently attending substantially desegregated schools. The Court of Appeal, however, in all other respects denied the Board's petition for a stay, thus precipitating the current situation where upwards of 80,000 pupils will be bused at the start of school on Monday, September 16, 1980. The court also accelerated the date of oral argument so that the appeal could be heard in January 1981. On August 27, 1980, the California Supreme Court denied, without opinion, the Board's application for a writ of mandamus and/or prohibition to stay in its entirety the order of the Superior Court and recommended that the Court of Appeal accelerate oral argument even further. The California Supreme Court also denied a motion by the original plaintiffs in this action, minority schoolchildren, to vacate the partial stay entered by the Court of Appeal.

This case comes to me after extensive and complicated litigation. Briefly stated, in 1970, the Superior Court issued an opinion finding that the segregation in the school district was de jure in nature and that the Board had taken "affirmative" steps which it "knew or should have known" would perpetuate segregation in the district. The specific items detailed in the court's findings included the Board's adoption of (1) a neighborhood school policy, (2) an "open transfer" policy, (3) a "feeder school" policy, and (4) "mandatory attendance areas." In Crawford v. Board of Education, 17 Cal. 3d 280, 551 P. 2d 28 (1976), the California Supreme Court accepted the finding of de jure segregation, but did not base its affirmance of the Superior Court's order of mandatory busing on that ground, holding instead that the California Constitution

[ 448 U.S. Page 1345]

     permitted busing to be ordered regardless of the cause of segregation. On September 8, 1978, I denied a stay for this reason. Bustop, Inc. v. Los Angeles Board of Education, 439 U.S. 1380 (in chambers).

During remand, the California Constitution was amended by way of a state referendum, Proposition I, adopted in November 1979 to eliminate state independent grounds as a basis for court-ordered busing, and the Board contended that the Superior Court's 10-year-old findings did not justify a finding of a federal constitutional violation or the systemwide remedy of mandatory assignment of children by race. In its July 7, 1980, order, the Superior Court apparently rejected that argument, reasoning that the California Supreme Court, in Crawford, affirmed the finding of de jure segregation. Contrary to the assertions of the respondents, it seems to me that this application necessarily turns on a question of federal constitutional law, as other courts have held. Indeed, I find myself unable to articulate the point better than Judge Cohn of the Superior Court of San Mateo County in Tinsley v. Palo Alto Unified School District, No. 206010 (July 10, 1980):

"Turning to the argument that Proposition I violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, inasmuch as it merely limits California courts to what the federal courts can do under the federal constitution, it is indeed difficult to accept the contention that by limiting a state court's jurisdiction to that of the federal courts, there is somehow a violation of [the] federal constitution."

There is an initial question as to whether this Court would have jurisdiction over the present action if a petition for writ of certiorari were filed. In Fisher v. District Court, 424 U.S. 382, 385, n. 7 (1976), this Court stated:

"The writ of supervisory control issued by the Montana Supreme Court is a final judgment ...


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