RESPONDENT: School Board of the City of Richmond
LOCATION: Bureau of Indian Affairs
DOCKET NO.: 72-1322
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
CITATION: 416 US 696 (1974)
ARGUED: Dec 05, 1973
DECIDED: May 15, 1974
George B. Little - for respondents
William T. Coleman, Jr. - for petitioners
Facts of the case
Media for Bradley v. School Board of the City of RichmondAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 05, 1973 in Bradley v. School Board of the City of Richmond
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 15, 1974 in Bradley v. School Board of the City of Richmond
Warren E. Burger:
The disposition of number 72-1322, Bradley against of the School Board of Richmond will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.
Harry A. Blackmun:
This case comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
It is still another chapter in the rather protracted litigation resulting -- relating really to the segregation and desegregation of the Richmond, Virginia Public School.
In May 1971, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, awarded the Negro plaintiffs, who are the petitioners here, expenses and attorney’s fees for services rendered from March 1970 to January 29, 1971.
On the earlier of those dates, the petitioners had moved for additional relief under the Green case decided here two years previously which held that a freedom-of-choice plan, like the one previously approved for the Richmond schools and then in effect, was no longer acceptable, where other methods for conversion to a unitary system were reasonably available.
Negotiations on a number of hearings followed.
In April 1971, the District Court approved a third plan proposed by the School Board, and shortly thereafter, they allowed the expenses and fees that are now an issue.
The Court predicated its ruling on the ground that the actions taken by the Board had resulted in an unreasonable delay in desegregation and that the plaintiffs were properly acting as private attorney’s general.
After the case had been appealed to the Fourth Circuit and had been heard there, but before the appeal had been decided, the Congress enacted the Education Amendments Act of 1972.
Section 718 of that Act granted a Federal Court authority to award that prevailing party in a school desegregation case, a reasonable attorney’s fee, when appropriate, upon the entry of a final order.
Thus, the statute came into been after the period for which fees were awarded here and after the award had been made by the District Court, but before the disposition of the appeal.
The Fourth Circuit reversed and disallowed the award holding that the statutory conditions have not been satisfied, and thus that the statute could not be used.
It also rejected the other equitable grounds proposed in the support of the award.
In an opinion filed today, we hold that the new statute may be applied that cover attorney’s services rendered before the statute was enacted and when the issue of the propriety of the award was pending resolution on appeal.
In reaching this conclusion, we rely on the established principle that an Appellate Court is to apply the law in affect at the time it renders its decision.
This has its foundation in a case called United States against Schooner Peggy decided here almost 175 years ago with an opinion written by Chief Justice Marshall.
That case draws some exceptions to the rule, but we conclude that it does -- with this case, does not fit those exceptions.
We hold furthermore that the Court of Appeals was not correct when it held that the technical requirements of the new statute were not fulfilled in this case.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is therefore vacated and the case is remanded for further proceedings as we have directed.
Mr. Justice Marshall and Mr. Justice Powell took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you Mr. Justice Blackmun.