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Hoots v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

decided: March 28, 1983.

DOROTHY HOOTS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MOTHER OF HER CHILDREN, JANELLE HOOTS AND JAMIE HOOTS; MRS. ADDRALLACE KNIGHT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF HER CHILDREN RONALD KNIGHT, LORETTA KNIGHT, TERRANCE KNIGHT, MARC KNIGHT AND BYRON KNIGHT; BARBARA SMITH, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF HER CHILDREN TAWANDA SMITH, TEVELA SMITH, JOSEPH SMITH, WESLEY SMITH AND ERIC SMITH; ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED MAE HELEN WOODY, JUANITA JORDAN
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA; EDWARD X. HALLENBERG, PRESIDENT OF THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS; THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS; W. DEMING LEWIS, CHAIRMAN OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION; MICHAEL SULLIVAN, PRESIDENT OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF BRADDOCK; THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF BRADDOCK; ANDREW LISYAK, PRESIDENT OF THE SCHOOL BOARD OF RANKIN; THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF RANKIN; LEO CAMPBELL, PRESIDENT OF THE SCHOOL BOARD OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF NORTH BRADDOCK; AND THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF NORTH BRADDOCK; THE ALLEGHENY INTERMEDIATE UNIT BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS; AND EDWARD X. HALLENBERG AS PRESIDENT OF THE ALLEGHENY INTERMEDIATE BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS CHURCHILL AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT EDGEWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT SWISSVALE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT TURTLE CREEK AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS OF THE WOODLAND HILLS SCHOOL DISTRICT APPELLANT



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA -- PITTSBURGH District Judge: Honorable GERALD J. WEBER.

Seitz, Chief Judge, and Weis and Becker, Circuit Judges.

Author: Per Curiam

Opinion OF THE COURT

We are advised by the parties in this protracted school desegregation litigation that this eighth appeal on the merits, the sixth in two years, will be known as Hoots XIV.*fn1 Although many of these appeals have been preliminary skirmishes, this appeal, like Hoots v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 672 F.2d 1107 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 824, 103 S. Ct. 55, 74 L. Ed. 2d 60, 51 U.S.L.W. 3254, 3258 (1982) (" Hoots IX "), is a frontal assault on the district court's desegregation plan. The previous appeals were mounted by the Allegheny County Intermediate Unit, the Allegheny County School Board, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the former school districts of Edgewood, Churchill, Swissvale, and Turtle Creek. The four school districts are now merged with the General Braddock Area School District (GBASD) to create a new umbrella district known as "Woodland Hills," the appellant here. Although the appellants' names have changed, the essential arguments remain the same.

Appellant argues that the district court fully remedied the constitutional violations by creating a consolidated district and thereby exhausted its jurisdiction; alternatively, that the constitutional violation was resolved by establishing three standard feeder systems to secondary schools, thereby exhausting the court's jurisdiction and leaving it with no authority to issue orders governing elementary schools; and that the court abused its discretion by rejecting appellant's plan and substituting its judgment as to elementary school assignment patterns.

I.

Repeating the factual and legal recitals already set forth in the reported opinions of both this court and the district court would serve no useful purpose. It is sufficient to state the law of the case and to update the history of the proceeding below. In Hoots IX we held that the district court applied the proper legal standard in determining that the creation of the predominantly black GBASD was an act of de jure discrimination, 672 F.2d at 1116, that there was sufficient evidence in the record to support a determination of intentional racial discrimination, id. at 1119, and that the district court's decision to consolidate five separate districts into one was not an abuse of discretion, id. at 1124.

During the pendency of Hoots IX-XI, the district court moved to implement the desegregation order. On July 23, 1981, it ordered defendant Woodland Hills to create three secondary/middle school feeder systems to replace the existing secondary and middle school systems and directed the board to prepare an elementary school desegregation plan for submission to the court by December 15, 1981. On August 13, 1981, the district court approved a 1981-82 student assignment plan for the secondary/middle school feeder systems.

At defendant's request the district court extended the submission date for the elementary school desegregation plan to January 29, 1982. Defendant submitted this plan, but the court found it unacceptable and directed defendant to revise it. On April 22, 1982, as defendant submitted its revised elementary school desegregation plan, plaintiffs also submitted several proposed elementary plans for the court's assistance.

On May 12, 1982, following hearings on the plans, the district court, 539 F. Supp. 335, found defendant's revised plan unacceptable. The court found many of the plaintiffs' plans to be acceptable, however, and directed Woodland Hills to draw up a final plan on the basis of plaintiffs' submissions. Woodland Hills complied with this order, but appealed to this court from the May 12 order.

II.

The Hoots sequence is not our first contact with inter-district de jure segregation requiring creation of a new umbrella district. We confronted the same problem in Evans v. Buchanan, 555 F.2d 373 (3d Cir.) (in banc), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 880, 98 S. Ct. 235, 54 L. Ed. 2d 160 (1977), and in Evans v. Buchanan, 582 F.2d 750 (3d Cir. 1978) (in banc), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 923, 100 S. Ct. 1862, 64 L. Ed. 2d 278 (1980). In the present appeal, we find the Evans decisions particularly helpful for their definition of the standard of review.

We note that appellant casts its first two contentions in terms of district court jurisdiction. This requires some clarification. Appellant does not argue that the district court exceeded the dispute resolution power granted by article III of the Constitution and federal statute. This case, then, does not present a question of "subject matter jurisdiction" as that term is usually presented to this court. Moreover, appellant does not appear to contend that there was available an adequate remedy at law and thus that the court lacked "equity jurisdiction." Rather, appellant's arguments go to the authority of the court to fashion the specific remedies imposed.

Therefore, notwithstanding appellant's labelling of its theories, we examine the district court's judgment not with the plenary review appropriate to review for error in subject matter jurisdiction, but search instead for indications that the district court abused its discretion. We defined that standard with specificity in Evans, emphasizing that as a reviewing court we are not empowered to consider remedial orders de novo, that where there has been intentional segregation the fashioning of a remedy is committed to the exercise of the district court's discretion, and that "a school desegregation case does not differ fundamentally from other cases involving the framing of equitable remedies to repair the denial of a constitutional right." 555 F.2d at 378 (quoting Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 15-16, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554, 91 S. Ct. 1267 (1971)). Thus, in the formulation of orders seeking to remedy the vestiges of intentional ...


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