|Milliken v. Bradley
[ Burger ]
[ Marshall ]
[ Powell ]
Milliken v. Bradley
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
MR JUSTICE POWELL, concurring in the judgment.
The Court's opinion addresses this case as if it were conventional desegregation litigation. The wide-ranging opinion reiterates the familiar general principles drawn from the line of precedents commencing with Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), and including today's decision in Dayton Board of Education v. Brinkman, post, p. 406. One has to read the opinion closely to understand that the case, as it finally reaches us, is wholly different from any prior case. I write to emphasize its uniqueness, and the consequent limited precedential effect of much of the Court's opinion.
Normally, the plaintiffs in this type of litigation are students, parents, and supporting organizations that desire to desegregate a school system alleged to be the product, in whole or in part, of de jure segregative action by the public school authorities. The principal defendant is usually the [p293] local board of education or school board. Occasionally, the state board of education and state officials are joined as defendants. This protracted litigation commenced in 1970 in this conventional mold. In the intervening years, however, the posture of the litigation has changed so drastically as to leave it largely a friendly suit between the plaintiffs (respondents Bradley et al.) and the original principal defendant, the Detroit School Board. These parties, antagonistic for years, have now joined forces, apparently for the purpose of extracting funds from the state treasury. As between the original principal parties -- the plaintiffs and the Detroit School Board -- no case or controversy remains on the issues now before us. The Board enthusiastically supports the entire desegregation decree even though the decree intrudes deeply on the Board's own decisionmaking powers. Indeed, the present School Board proposed most of the educational components included in the District Court's decree. The plaintiffs originally favored a desegregation plan that would have required more extensive transportation of pupils, and they did not initially propose or endorse the educational components. In this Court, however, the plaintiffs also support the decree of the District Court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals. [n1]
Thus the only complaining party is the State of Michigan (acting through state officials), and its basic complaint concerns money, not desegregation. It has been ordered to pay about $5,800,000 to the Detroit School Board. This is one-half the estimated "excess cost" of 4 of the 11 educational components [p294] included in the desegregation decree: remedial reading, in-service training of teachers, testing, and counseling. [n2] The State, understandably anxious to preserve the state budget from federal court control or interference, now contests the decree on two grounds. [p295]
First, it is argued that the order to pay state funds violates the Eleventh Amendment and principles of federalism. Ordinarily a federal court's order that a State pay unappropriated funds to a locality would raise the gravest constitutional issues. See generally San Antonio School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 40-42 (1973); National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976). But here, in a finding no longer subject to review, the State has been adjudged a participant in the constitutional violations, and the State therefore may be ordered to participate prospectively in a remedy otherwise appropriate.
The State's second argument is one that normally would be advanced vigorously by the school board. Relying on the established principle that the scope of the remedy in a desegregation case is determined and limited by the extent of the identified constitutional violations, Dayton Board of Education, post at 419-420; Hills v. Glautreaux, 425 U.S. 284, 293-294 (1976); Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717, 744 (1974); Austin Independent School Dist. v. United States, 429 U.S. 990, 991 (1976) (POWELL, J., concurring), the State argues that the District Court erred in ordering the system-wide expansion of the four educational components mentioned above. It contends that there has been no finding of a constitutional violation with respect to the past operation of any of these programs, and it insists that, without more specifically focused findings of this sort, the decree exceeded the court's powers.
This argument is by no means a frivolous one. But the context in which it is presented is so unusual that it would be appropriate to dismiss the writ as improvidently granted. The argument is advanced by the State, and not by the party primarily concerned. The educational programs at issue are standard, and widely approved in public education. The State Board normally would be enthusiastic over enhancement of these programs so long as the local school board could [p296] fund them without requiring financial aid from the State. It is equally evident that the State probably would resist a federal court order requiring it to pay unappropriated state funds to the local school board regardless of whether violations by the local board justified the remedy. The State's interest in protecting its own budget -- limited by legislative appropriations -- is a genuine one. But it is not an interest that is related, except fortuitously, to a claim that the desegregation remedy may have exceeded the extent of the violations.
The State's reliance on the remedy issue contains a further weakness, emphasizing the unusual character of this case. There is no indication that the State objected -- certainly, it does not object here -- to the inclusion in the District Court's decree of the seven other educational components. See 433 U.S. 267 n2"]n. 2, supra. Indeed, the State expressly agreed to one of the most expensive components, the establishment of vocational education centers, in a stipulation obligating it to share the cost of construction equally with the Detroit Board. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 139a-144a. Furthermore, the District Court's decree largely embodies the original recommendation of the Detroit Board. Since local school boards "have the primary responsibility for elucidating, assessing, and solving [the] problems" generated by "[f]ull implementation of . . . constitutional principles" in the local setting, n. 2, supra. Indeed, the State expressly agreed to one of the most expensive components, the establishment of vocational education centers, in a stipulation obligating it to share the cost of construction equally with the Detroit Board. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 139a-144a. Furthermore, the District Court's decree largely embodies the original recommendation of the Detroit Board. Since local school boards "have the primary responsibility for elucidating, assessing, and solving [the] problems" generated by "[f]ull implementation of . . . constitutional principles" in the local setting, Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294, 299 (1955), the State's limited challenge here is particularly lacking in force.
Moreover, the District Court was faced with a school district in exceptional disarray. It found the structure of the Detroit school system "chaotic and incapable of effective administration." App. to Pet. for Cert. 124a. The "general superintendent has little direct authority." Ibid. Each of the eight regional boards may be preoccupied with "distribut[ing] local board patronage." Id. at 125a. The
local boards have diverted resources that would otherwise have been [p297] available for educational purposes to build new offices and other facilities to house this administrative overload.
Ibid. The District Court continued:
In addition to the administrative chaos, we know of no other school system that is so enmeshed in politics. . . .
. . . Rather than devoting themselves to the educational system and the desegregative process, board members are busily engaged in politics not only to assure their own re election, but also to defeat others with whom they disagree.
Id. at 125a-126a (footnote omitted). Referring again to the "political paralysis" and "inefficient bureaucracy" of the system, the court also noted -- discouragingly -- that the election then approaching "may well [result in] a board of education consisting of members possessing no experience in education." Id. at 126a. In this quite remarkable situation, it is perhaps not surprising that the District Court virtually assumed the role of school superintendent and school board. [n3] [p298]
Given the foregoing unique circumstances, it seems to me that the proper disposition of this case is to dismiss the writ of certiorari as improvidently granted. But as the Court has chosen to decide the case here, I join in the judgment as a result less likely to prolong the disruption of education in Detroit than a reversal or remand. Despite wide-ranging dicta in the Court's opinion, the only issue decided is that the District Court's findings as to specific constitutional violations justified the four remedial educational components included in the desegregation decree. In my view, it is at least arguable that the findings in this respect were too generalized to meet the standards prescribed by this Court. See Dayton Board of Education, post, p. 406. But the majority views the record as justifying the conclusion that "the need for educational components flowed directly from constitutional violations by both state and local officials." Ante at 282. [n4] On that view of the record, our settled doctrine requiring that the remedy be carefully tailored to fit identified constitutional violations is reaffirmed by today's result. I therefore concur in the judgment.
1. Until the case reached this Court, the plaintiffs apparently did not view the educational components as necessary, or even important, elements of a desegregation plan. These components were not included in plans submitted by the plaintiffs, and, in briefs filed below, there were indications that the plaintiffs viewed some -- if not all -- of these components as being "wholly unrelated to desegregation of students and faculty in schools." Brief for Plaintiffs-Appellants 5 n. 6 in the Court of Appeals, No. 75-2018 (filed Dec. 29, 1975).
2. In addition to these four components, there were some seven other educational directives that are not contested here. (The details are set forth in the opinions and decrees of August 15, 1975, November 4 and 20, 1975, and May 11, 1976, all of which are reproduced in full in the appendix to the petition for certiorari. The first two such opinions also have been published. 402 F.Supp. 1096; 411 F.Supp. 943.) Perhaps the most expansive component was the District Court's order that the city and state boards create five vocational centers "devoted to in-depth occupational preparation in the construction trades, transportation and health services." 402 F.Supp. at 1140. As noted in the text, infra at 296, a compromise was reached as to these centers, and the State entered into a stipulation obligating it to share the cost of providing them. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 139a-144a. The other educational components ordered by the District Court included: (i) "two new technical high schools in which business education will be the central part of the curriculum," App. 75a; (ii) a new curriculum for the vocational education courses in the Detroit schools, including the requirement that an additional "grade 13" be added to afford expanded educational opportunities, 402 F.Supp. at 1140; (iii) the inclusion of "multi-ethnic studies" in the curriculum, with a request for federal funds to support "in-service training for teachers involved in such programs," id. at 1144, App. to Pet. for Cert. 147a; (iv) a "Uniform Code of Conduct," which the Board was ordered to develop pursuant to guidelines established by the court, 402 F.Supp. at 1142, App. to Pet. for Cert. 148a; (v) a specific plan for "co-curricular activities" with other artistic and educational institutions in the area, to be developed by the Board and submitted for court approval, 402 F.Supp. at 1143; and (vi) a "community relations program" prescribed in remarkable detail by the court. Ibid., App. to Pet. for Cert. 131a-135a.
In most, if not all, instances, the court ordered that each of these programs be "comprehensive," and that reports be made to the court. One may doubt whether there is any precedent for a federal court's exercising such extensive control over the purely educational responsibilities of a school board.
3. It merits emphasizing that the School Board invited this assumption of power. Indeed, the District Court had complimented the Board on its willingness to "implement any desegregation order the court may issue." 402 F.Supp. at 1125. But, at one point, there were serious second thoughts. In its brief in the Court of Appeals, the Board expressed grave concern as to what the District Court's assumption of the Board's powers could do to the school system financially:
[O]n May 11, 1976 . . . , the District Court ordered equalization of all school facilities and buildings preparatory to the 1976-77 school term; continuance of the comprehensive construction and renovation program; [and implementation of the educational components summarized in n. 2, supra]. . . .
Even without actual dollar figures, the financial impact of these orders could easily destroy the educational program of the Detroit school system. The financing of these components by the Detroit school system would only mean a concomitant elimination of existing programs.
It is virtually impossible for the Detroit Board of Education to reorder its priorities when it is already operating on a woefully inadequate budget that cannot provide a minimal quality educational program. Any attempt to redistribute available resources will cause further deterioration in ongoing educational programs, and will merely result in robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Reprinted in the Appendix to the opinion of the Court of Appeals, 540 F.2d 229, 25251 (CA6) (emphasis added).
To say the least, the financial impact of the court's decree was profoundly disturbing. But apparently the financially pressed Board was willing to surrender a substantial portion of its decisionmaking authority in return for the prospect of enhanced state funding. For by the time it made this statement to the Court of Appeals, the Board knew that the District Court had exercised its power to do what the state legislature had chosen not to do: appropriate funds from the state treasury for these particular programs of the Detroit schools.
4. The Court's opinion states, for example, that the District Court
expressly found that the two components of testing and counseling, as then administered in Detroit's schools, were infected with the discriminatory bias of a segregated school system.