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CIVIL LIBERTIES DOCKET
Vol. V, No. 1
November, 1959

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THIS ISSUE


CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE COURTS IN 1959

OPEN OCCUPANCY IN HOUSING

Public Housing Projects

More than a dozen law suits have been brought in the past decade seeking injunctions against discrimination in admission to public housing projects. All of the suits were brought by Negro families against the local housing administration and/or the city. Although federal funds were used in the projects, the Federal Government was joined as a party defendant only once. None of the suits was heard by the United States Supreme Court.

Suits were won in Detroit, Hamtramck and Benton Harbor, Michigan; Evansville, Indiana; San Francisco, California; Louisville, Kentucky. The suits brought in Birmingham (531.2) and Savannah were both lost after lengthy litigation, one for misjoinder of parties plaintiff, the other for failure to prove that plaintifis had applied for admission to white housing projects. The Supreme Court denied certiorari in the latter case last term. (Queen Cohen, 531.1.)

Title J Projects

Suits have been brought by Negro families living on sites in Gadsden and Eufaula, Alabama to be cleared under Title I urban renewal programs. Plaintiffs sued for injunctive relief against discriminatory practices in admission of tenants to the housing projects to be built on the cleared land. Both suits were lost in Federal District Court on the ground that plaintiffs had not proved that the projects would be administered in a discriminatory manner. In one case, the Court assumed that the City, after receiving federal funds, would recognize that there can be no governmentally enforced segregation solely because of race. (Tate, 531.9)

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision in the Gadsden case, but Judge Rives had second thoughts, and wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. He re-read the trial testimony of city housing officials and re-studied the plans themselves, and concluded that "actual segregation" was planned. He maintained that the private redevelopers would not be free to discriminate because the plans for the project are "governmentally conceived, governmentally aided and governmentally regulated" and won't be completed until the property passes out of the control of the redevelopers.

This case is now pending before the Supreme Court. (Barnes, 531.8)

FHA-financed Housing

The new Washington state law against discrimination in housing is before the Washington Supreme Court in a suit testing its constitutionality and its application to prohibit a white owner of a private home from refusing to sell to a Negro buyer. The owner used FHA-financing in buying an existing home before the law went into effect. (O'Meara,

And watch test of constitutionality of New Jersey's housing law. (Levitt, 532.21.)

INTEGRATION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Supreme Court has already this term refused to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of Pupil Placement Laws passed in many southern states. (Covington, and Holt, 522.NC2 and 7)

The Court is being asked to hear Negro parents' objections to the "stairstep" plan for desegregation approved by the Nashville Board of Education, the District Court, and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. (Kelly, 522.Tenn1) The same 12-year desegregation plan is being tested in the federal courts in Delaware. (Buchanan, 522.Dela1)

INTEGRATION OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

When the public schools of Missouri were desegregated in 1955, the school board in Moberly found that it had 109 teachers but only needed 94 for the combined schools which would remain. The Board therefore dismissed 11 out of 11 of its Negro teachers, and 4 out of 98 of its white teachers, following recommendations by the Superintendent based on "merit", defined to include: qualifications, training, experience, personality and ability to fulfill the requirements of the position. The Negro teachers sued, under 28 USC 1331, for damages and injunctive relief. At trial, it was conceded by the Board that some of the plaintiffs had more experience and more college credits than some of the white teachers who were retained. The Board members denied racial prejudice.

The District Court dismissed plaintiff's suit, agreed with the Superintendent's testimony that the Negro teachers were not equipped to meet standards for teaching integrated classes. In support of this contention, the Court found that the Negro students had difficulty in keeping up with the white students in the first half-year of integrated schooling, but in the second-half they did keep up.

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit conceded "that the result is unusual and somewhat startling", then affirmed dismissal of the suit. Plaintiffs' petition for certiorari is now pending in the Supreme Court. (Brooks, 571.1)

ENFORCEMENT OF ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS

In the first 13 years of its existence, the New York State Commission Against Discrimination handled many complaints charging discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing. All of the cases were handled administratively except a very few which were ended by court order. In 1959, for the first time in New York or any other state with a similar agency, a company refused to abide by a cease and desist order of S.C.A.D. and the Albany County Supreme Court imposed a jail sentence and fine. Defendant's appeal is now pending. (Mid-City Swimming Pool, 551.NY4)

The Colorado fair employment practices law is also being tested in the courts, by the Continental Air Lines, charged with discriminating against a Negro flyer. The District Court in Denver held the Commission's order a nullity, and the Commission's appeal is now pending in the Colorado Supreme Court. (571.25)