Triangle Improvement Council v. Ritchie

PETITIONER: Triangle Improvement Council
LOCATION: Barbara James' apartment

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1970-1971)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 402 US 497 (1971)
ARGUED: Mar 22, 1971
DECIDED: May 17, 1971

Facts of the case


Media for Triangle Improvement Council v. Ritchie

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 22, 1971 in Triangle Improvement Council v. Ritchie

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments in the number 712, Triangle Improvement Council against Ritchie and others.

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

Jack Greenberg:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on writ of certiorari from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit which affirmed the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia without an opinion.

But I might add that there were dissenting opinion by the Judges Sobeloff and Winter which at some length set forth what in their view was the reasoning and position of the majority who did not write an opinion.

There have been a number of changes in the law and the circumstances of petitioners, since this case was filed and the federal respondent suggest in their brief while “the case is technically not moot”, it would be inappropriate for this Court to adjudicate the complex issues originally raised by this case, that is the position of the United States.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

How many have not yet been relocated?

Jack Greenberg:

There are perhaps just the handful there at this moment.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

A handful of being what?

Jack Greenberg:

Half a dozen.

Our position is --

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And what was in that time when the case got here?

Jack Greenberg:

How many were there at the time when the case is filed, approximately 300.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:


Jack Greenberg:

Our position is that the changes in the facts and the changes in law determined only the form of the remedy and that the Court of Equity has the historic flexibility that equity had demonstrated to adapt relief to the circumstances.

But if the changes have no bearing whatsoever on whether rights were violated and whether petitioners were entitled to any remedy at all.

The decision may have a practical effect on the rights of the 300 former residents of the Triangle whom I just referred to and in answer to Mr. Justice Brennan’s question.

And as the brief of amicus, National Housing and Economic Development law project states, perhaps 100,000 others throughout the nation who are similarly situated.

Now, I would like to describe the principal changes that have taken place since the case was filed.

The case involves an interstate highway being built through an area known as the Triangle, a poor, mostly black section of Charleston, West Virginia.

In 1968 when the case was file, there existed, but since then has been recently been repealed of the 1968 relocation amendments of the Federal-Aid Highway Act and that’s statute set forth completely in our brief.

But Section 502 which is one of the key sections of the statutes says if the secretary shall not approve any project which will cause displacement unless he receives satisfactory assurances from the state highway department that relocation meeting certain standards with regard to safety sanitation and decency will be furnished to persons being displaced.

And elsewhere in the statute relocation is provided for.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Would you say that under appeal?

Jack Greenberg:

That has just been repealed by the Uniform Relocation Act which is set forth at length in our supplemental brief and it’s discussed in that brief Mr. Justice Brennan.

Also in effect, in 1968 was IM8168, IM standing for Instructional Memorandum which is set forth in the appendix to our brief which was a regulation of the Department of Transportation, which elaborated on requirements of the statute, particularly with regard to fact gathering and formulating a relocation plan.

And at the time of suit, when these statute and these regulations were in effect, they were approximately 10 persons in the path of the Triangle.

Now, the position of the federal respondents at that time and now is that the 1968 Relocation Amendments and the regulation 8168 did not apply because they stated that these do not apply to areas where right-of-way acquisition was approved prior to 1968, and right-of-way acquisition in this case had been approved prior to 1968.

And that is their position even though other approvals, that is approvals for clearance at construction had not yet been given.

Now, the fact is exactly how many people, they are not entirely precise but a discovery was denied before trial in the court below.B