Moore v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

PETITIONER: Mrs. Robert Lee Moore, et al.
RESPONDENT: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education
LOCATION: C-M School Corporate Office

DOCKET NO.: 444
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 402 US 47 (1971)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1970
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1971
GRANTED: Oct 06, 1970

ADVOCATES:
Whiteford S. Blakeney - for the petitioners
William J. Waggoner - for the respondents

Facts of the case

Plaintiffs, a group of parents of children in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, sued the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (Board) in state court and argued that the state court should issue an injunction to prevent the Board from implementing a plan to assign children to public schools based on race. The plaintiffs claimed that this plan violated the children’s constitutional rights under the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education as well as a North Carolina state statute that prohibited districts from assigning children to schools based on race. The state court issued the injunction, and the defendants moved the case to federal court by arguing that, because the issues in the case dealt with the U.S. Constitution, the federal court had jurisdiction. The district court heard arguments in this case with a similar one, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, and subsequently struck down the state court injunction by holding that the state statute was unconstitutional.

Question

Is a school district policy that seeks to desegregate a public school district unconstitutional and in violation of a statute that forbids a public school from making distinctions in regards to students based on their race?

Media for Moore v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1970 in Moore v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

Warren E. Burger:

444, Moore against Charlotte -- excuse me, Moore against Charlotte-Mecklenburg and 498.

Whiteford S. Blakeney:

Yes Your Honor.

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Blakeney, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Whiteford S. Blakeney:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

I believe that this Moore case will furnish to the Court more truly than is to be found elsewhere in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg litigation.

Clarity and certainty and indeed the solution for the problem with which the Court is now wrestling.

These qualities emerged if the Court please, first I think because in this case and only in this case are there individuals before the Court, pleading their constitutional right against the compulsions which have been imposed below.

This Court has often recognized of course that that puts a constitutional questions in its clearest bite.

Furthermore, if the Court please, the compulsions which have been imposed are all opposed by these Moore plaintiffs for whom I appear.

They do not accept some and reject the rest.

They oppose all their compulsions of racial nature which have been fastened upon them below.

By contrast as Your Honors will have noted, the plaintiffs and Swann of course and the District Court below to be sure, support all the compulsions which have been imposed.

On the other hand, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, defendant in this case, acquiesces in some of the compulsions indeed propose some of them, the Solicitor General acquiesces in such as maybe regarded as reasonable.

Pardon me, the Solicitor General more specifically in such as maybe regarded as feasible.

And the Circuit Court below in such as may regarded as reasonable.

Thurgood Marshall:

Are you able to draw in a dictionary distinction between those two words?

Whiteford S. Blakeney:

I myself am not able to draw any distinction satisfactory to myself Your Honor.

In any event, we stand against all the racial compulsions and that is our posture in this case.

And from beginning to end, our position may be summarized thus briefly.

We obtained an injunction below which expresses it.

This injunction said to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education and who -- any agency imposing these compulsions.

It said, “Do not bar any child from any school in Charlotte-Mecklenburg because of its race, and do not assign children in Charlotte -- to any Charlotte-Mecklenburg School on the basis of race.

This is our theme as I say at all stages.

Potter Stewart:

Your clients are -- who is -- Mrs. Moore and others?

Whiteford S. Blakeney:

Yes sir.

Potter Stewart:

I don't need to know their names, I'm rather just -- in that, but they are the parents of white public school children as well as of Negro public school children or only white public school children?

Whiteford S. Blakeney:

Both Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

Both.

Whiteford S. Blakeney:

And the minor --

William O. Douglas:

What do you do about the problem of disestablishing a jury segregated school system?