United States v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Scotland Neck City Board of Education
LOCATION: Supreme Court, Bronx County

DOCKET NO.: 70-130
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 407 US 484 (1972)
ARGUED: Feb 29, 1972 / Mar 01, 1972
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1972

Adam Stein - argued the cause for petitioners in No. 70-187
C. Kitchin Josey - argued the cause for respondents in both cases
Lawrence G. Wallace - argued the cause for petitioner in No. 70-130
William T. Joyner - argued the cause for respondents in both cases

Facts of the case


Media for United States v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 01, 1972 in United States v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 29, 1972 in United States v. Scotland Neck City Board of Education

Warren E. Burger:

Hear arguments next in United States against Scotland Neck City Board of Education, 70-130 and 70-187.

Mr. Wallace.

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This consolidated case and the next case to be argued were decided together by the Court of Appeals by the Fourth Circuit sitting embank and presents similar issues.

Each case involves a predominantly black, predominantly rural school district which has been operating a dual system of racially segregate schools.

In each case, instead of proceeding to desegregate the entire district as the unit in which had been operating, the State has sought to split the district in two by carving out a small, more white and more urban enclave to operate as a separate school district.

In the present case involving the schools of Halifax County, North Carolina, the United States filed suit alleging that the splitting of the district unconstitutionally impeded the disestablishment of the dual system and additional plaintiffs subsequently intervened that are now before the Court in the companion case which has been consolidated with ours.

The next case to be heard which involves the schools of Greensville County, Virginia was brought by private plaintiffs and the United States did not participate in the case that any stage of the proceedings until this Court granted certiorari.

The United States has now filed a brief, amicus curiae in support of the petitioners in that case.

In each case, the split off was held unconstitutional by the District Court and the Court of Appeals reversed by a divided vote.

Our position is that the Court of Appeals applied the wrong standard and reached the wrong result in both cases.

There was also a third case decided on the same day by the Court of Appeals in which that Court by a differently divided vote upheld another District Court order enjoining another similar split off in North Carolina and no petition for certiorari was filed in that case and it is not before this Court.

Now, the facts of the present case can conveniently be summarized by reference to the very readable foldout maps that appear in this large size appendix filed by the petitioners in the companion case, in the consolidated case.

If the Court please, I’d like to turn first to the map at page 4B, which is a map of Halifax County, the County at issue here.

It’s a largely rural area which is some 40 miles across at its widest point.

Scotland Neck --

Warren E. Burger:

You’re speaking of the whole county now.

Lawrence G. Wallace:

This is the whole county, depicted in this map and Scotland Neck, the town which has been carved out by this new legislation appears in the Southeastern portion Scotland Neck’s School is labeled, that little rectangle around Scotland Neck’s School and Brawley School and the limits of the town of Scotland Neck are within that rectangle, that irregularly shaped figure in lighter lines.

The shaded areas in the northern portion, labeled, well, in Roanoke Rapids are two separately administered school districts, each of which is several times more populous than the town of Scotland Neck.

Those have been administered a separate districts right along.

The rest of the county has been operating as a single school district known as the Halifax County Administrative Unit and Scotland Neck has been included in that school system since 1936.

And until 1965, all of the schools in that county system were completely segregated by race.

In 1965, a freedom of choice plan was instituted but very little desegregation resulted from that, for example, during the 1968-1969 school year, the last one under unmodified freedom of choice, all of the whites students still attended the four traditionally white schools and 97% of the black students attended the other all-black schools.

The District at that time was 77% black.

Warren E. Burger:

When you speak the district now --

Lawrence G. Wallace:

The entire district that -- the Halifax County School District.

Potter Stewart:

The Halifax County School District at that time, was the entire County with the exception of Weldon and Roanoke Rapids.

Lawrence G. Wallace:

That is correct Your Honor.

That is the latest -- it’s been operating since 1936.

And at that time also, more than 90% of the students in that County system were transported to school by school buses.