Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson

PETITIONER: Monroe
RESPONDENT: Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson
LOCATION: Jewelry Store/Post Office Contract Station # 7

DOCKET NO.: 740
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 391 US 450 (1968)
ARGUED: Apr 03, 1968
DECIDED: May 27, 1968

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 03, 1968 in Monroe v. Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson

Earl Warren:

Number 740, Brenda K. Monroe et al. versus Board of Commissioners of the City of Jackson, Tennessee.

Mr. Nabrit.

You may proceed Mr. Nabrit.

James M. Nabrit, III,:

Mr. Chief Justice and May it please the Court.

This case is here on certiorari to review a judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which affirmed an order entered by the District Court in the western district of Tennessee, approving a desegregation plan proposed by the school authorities in Jackson, Tennessee.

At the outset before I begin a description of the facts and proceedings, let me attempt to state the issue as I see it here.

The question I think is whether a School Board which has maintained a dual segregated system satisfies its obligations under the equal protection clause simply by seizing its illegal practices.

Its practices of assigning pupils on the basis of race of whether on the other hand, the Court should require such boards to begin affirmative steps to thoroughly dismantle the dual segregated system and bring about a system which is no longer segregated.

Now the courts below have agreed with the School Board’s argument which is that their only obligations is to stop using race to assign pupils to declare neutrality and that so long as they don’t use race anymore, it doesn’t matter what happens, it doesn’t matter if they argue that the school there may be largely segregated as they were before.

The petitioner's view in our basic submission today, is that it is not enough merely for the boards to stop their illegal and unconstitutional practices but that in addition, the school authorities have to take steps designed to actually reform the dual system of schools which they have built up to integrate them if you will.

In other words, we urge that the remedy must be designed to purely evil and that the evil was the racially segregated school system that the authorities have put together.

This is a very basic and fundamental question I think about the meaning of the Brown decision because the Court is familiar with the war that's been going on.

A war that many public officials have been waging against the Brown decision for all these years and I think the School Boards and these cases are still fighting that war.

They have sophisticated arguments but they are indeed fighting to keep just as much segregation in these school systems as the courts will let them keep.

That's what's involved here and that's the issue.

Will we have real reform of the segregated school systems or will the courts be content with nominal and token compliance.

United States Civil Rights Commission examined a situation filed and made a report to the Congress and the President last July and it pointed out that in many areas there has been commendable progress but that nevertheless, vast majority of Negro children are still denied the rights, their rights under the decision in the school segregation cases.

The Commission said its conclusion, if these rights are to be secured, this cannot be a time for retrenchment or wavering of purpose and this is our view too.

Now, I think it is helpful to look a bit at the particular facts of the Jackson, Tennessee school system.

Jackson has 13 schools, a little more than 7600 pupils, about 60% of them are White and about 40% Negro.

When petitioners filed this lawsuit in January 1963, there were -- there was still complete segregation of faculty and pupils except for seven Negroes where they admitted in White schools.

There were eight White schools and five Negro schools and today, after five years of litigation, we still have the five all Negro schools attended by 80% of the Negro pupils in the county, a little more than 80%.

Now in August 1963 when the District Court first approved a desegregation plan for Jackson, Tennessee, it approved the plan calling for gradual desegregation in five annual steps of various grade levels.

And the plan proposed by the School Board provided for school zones, provided that each school building would have a geographic attendance area around it but -- and they also made provisions for pupils to transfer out of the areas where they lived and the plan that the judge approved was that any transfer arrangements that the School Board wanted to make would be acceptable provided the court said they were reasonable and were not based on race.

Now, after in the fall of --

Byron R. White:

And that means that it was a free transfer system?

James M. Nabrit, III,:

Well, it didn't work out that way.

I think that's what the district judge --

Byron R. White:

No, I mean -- is that any different from the Kent County type of plans?

James M. Nabrit, III,:

Well, it's not now but it was -- I was telling the events chronologically.