Crawford v. Board of Education of City of Los Angeles

RESPONDENT: Board of Education of City of Los Angeles
LOCATION: Mississippi University for Women

DOCKET NO.: 81-38
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 458 US 527 (1982)
ARGUED: Mar 22, 1982
DECIDED: Jun 30, 1982

G. William Shea - on behalf of Respondents
Laurence H. Tribe - on behalf of Petitioners
Rex E. Lee - as amicus curiae

Facts of the case


Media for Crawford v. Board of Education of City of Los Angeles

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 22, 1982 in Crawford v. Board of Education of City of Los Angeles

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Crawford against the Board of Education.

You may proceed whenever you are ready.

Laurence H. Tribe:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

This case brings to the Court a judgment of the California Court of Appeal upholding an amendment to the California Constitution.

Proposition One enacted a special statewide election to, and I quote from the analysis of the Legislative Analyst,

"limit the power of California Courts to require desegregation. "

Proposition One expressly linked--

That was written in terms of limited as between the California standards or the federal standards?

Laurence H. Tribe:

--Clearly they wanted to link it to the federal standards.

What is intriguing about the case is whether it is permissible for a state, in its constitution which provides generous protection for educational equality across the board, to single out the right not to be subject to what the California Courts have called racial isolation, and to single it out by saying that as to that right, the only remedies available are those that a Federal Court, in the same circumstances, would order.

We submit that that is not permissible, and the Petitioners in this case--

Isn't the corollary to that that states must have the same standards as the federal?

Laurence H. Tribe:

--No, not at all, Mr. Chief Justice.

It is a ratchet that only goes one way?

Laurence H. Tribe:

If the states wanted to cut back on their equal protection clause in a neutral way, and to say, in general, they will not go beyond the federal Constitution, that would surely be permissible.

The State of California has not done that.

The State of California, as the decision below expressly holds, continues to create rights to be free of racially segregated schooling regardless of cause broader than the rights that are conferred under federal law.

The rights, substantively, have been completely unchanged by Proposition One.

Moreover, the court below held that the duty on the school board to take affirmative steps, including mandatory pupil reassignment if and when necessary, remains.

What is now different, and it is different only with respect to desegregation, not with respect to school finance or any other area.

What is different is that with respect to school desegregation now, after Proposition One, one cannot use the Courts of California to get any and all necessary remedies.

One must limit oneself to those remedies that a federal court, with all of the institutional limits on federal courts, would order in that very case.

Is it analogous to a State Norris-LaGuardia Act?

Laurence H. Tribe:

It is analogous, I think, to a state racially specific Norris LaGuardia Act that says in, for example, racial labor disputes, as opposed to other labor disputes, the state courts cannot enter certain remedies unless federal courts would do so.

It seems to me that the closest analogy is really in this case clearly Hunter v. Erickson, but in a way this case is a lot worse than Hunter v. Erickson for this reason: What is important in this case is not the sort of education that the petitioners, the minority students of Los Angeles, are receiving or will receive as a result of Proposition One.

That matters in the world, but the legal issue here is somewhat narrower.

The legal issue here is not even the degree of racial isolation and separation to which petitioners will be fated by virtue of Proposition One.

The issue is the special way in which Proposition One creates a two-track judicial system in California, a dual court system in which only those seeking redress from racial isolation in violation of state law must be satisfied with less than full relief from a state court.

They must, instead, persuade the school board, which is typically the defendant in the case, the entity said to be in default of their continuing obligations under state law, that the school board has been remiss in not ordering certain remedies.

Mr. Tribe, the proposition doesn't forbid a school board from voluntarily desegregating?