North Carolina Department of Transportation v. Crest Street Community Council, Inc.

PETITIONER: North Carolina Department of Transportation, et al.
RESPONDENT: Crest Street Community Council, Inc., et al.
LOCATION: Deseret Gymnasium

DOCKET NO.: 85-767
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 479 US 6 (1986)
ARGUED: Oct 07, 1986
DECIDED: Nov 04, 1986

ADVOCATES:
Lacy H. Thornburg - on behalf of Petitioners
Michael David Calhoun - on behalf of respondents
Richard J. Lazarus - on behalf of the United States as amicus curiae in support of petitioners

Facts of the case

Question

Media for North Carolina Department of Transportation v. Crest Street Community Council, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 1986 in North Carolina Department of Transportation v. Crest Street Community Council, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear argument first this afternoon in No. 85-767, North Carolina Department of Transportation versus Crest Street Community Council.

You may proceed, General Thornburgh.

Lacy H. Thornburg:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the honorable Court:

This is a case arising under The Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976, 42 USC 1988.

It raises the question as to whether or not attorneys' fees are appropriate in Federal Administrative procedures under Title VI, when there's no connected court action in which the fees are recoverable.

And more narrowly stated: is a recipient liable for fees to private complainants for time spent in resolving their complaint by the voluntary informal means that are provided in Title VI and implementing regulations.

Here no private right of action to enforce Title VI was ever brought in court, and no formal administrative hearings or actions in course to enforce Title VI were instituted by the United States Department of Transportion.

The essential facts in this action developed as follows.

From the early 1950s the state and municipal and federal officials had been engaged in planning for an east-west expressway through the city of Durham, North Carolina, in compliance with federal laws and procedures.

And from time to time the expressway appeared on the plan and was shown in a broad ribbon showing to pass through the Crest Street community, which was a predominantly black community.

Construction... it was agreed that the expressway would be constructed in segments.

By December, 1971, three segments were either completed or were under construction.

And at that time an incorporated group know as ECOS, Incorporated, and Duke University students, and some others, filed an action in the Middle District Court of the State of North Carolina against the Department of Transportation, the Commissioner of... North Carolina Highway Commissioners, and others, seeking injunctive relief in that they asked that the construction of the entire expressway be enjoined.

The present respondents were not party to that action.

The grounds for relief alleged in that action were: failure to hold public hearings; failure to comply with protection for park lands; failure to prepare an appropriate environment impact statement.

On February 20th of 1973, the Court enjoined construction on the expressway past those three segments that were then in progress, in construction, until the compliance was had in full with the statutes that were alleged to have been violated.

No Title VI issues were raised in the ECOS action, or contended at that time.

Then for approximately three years, nothing further was done toward additional construction.

But in late '77, the highway authorities began public meetings, and interest was renewed.

And at that time they began receiving information to prepare a draft environmental impact statement and holding public meetings.

And one of these meetings was held in the Crest Street community which was attended by various parties that were interested in the construction.

Now, these meetings continued through '77 and '78, and in '77 counsel were sought by the Crest Street group, and began their representation in these informal proceedings.

Of course, other groups were attending these meetings at the same time.

And then in September of '78, the attorneys for the respondents filed an administratif complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation alleging that this... if construction were completed in accordance with the plans that were being proposed, that this would constitute a violation of their Title VI rights.

The highway project then continued in the planning stage.

And in October of that same year, October of '78, a draft environmental impact statement was filed by the transportation authorities.

And at that time, after the filing of the administrative complaint, the Department of Transportation said to the parties: See if you can't settle your differences by voluntary dispute resolution.

And the parties did continue at that time with their informal meetings.

William H. Rehnquist:

This was the United States Department of Transportation you referred to, General Thornburg?

Lacy H. Thornburg:

Yes, Your Honor.