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Hoots v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

decided: February 1, 1982.

DOROTHY HOOTS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MOTHER OF HER CHILDREN, JANELLE HOOTS AND JAMIE HOOTS, MRS. ADDRALLACE KNIGHT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF HER CHILDREN RONALD KNIGHT, LORETTA KNIGHT, TERRANCE KNIGHT, MARC KNIGHT AND BYRON KNIGHT, BARBARA SMITH, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MOTHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN OF HER CHILDREN TAWANDA SMITH, TEVELA SMITH, JOSEPH SMITH, WESLEY SMITH AND ERIC SMITH; ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED MAE HELEN WOODY, JUANITA JORDAN,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA; EDWARD X. HALLENBERG, PRESIDENT OF THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS; THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS; W. DEMING LEWIS, CHAIRMAN OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION; MICHAEL SULLIVAN, PRESIDENT OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF BRADDOCK, THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF BRADDOCK, ANDREW LISYAK, PRESIDENT OF THE SCHOOL BOARD OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF RANKIN; THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF RANKIN, LEO CAMPBELL, PRESIDENT OF THE SCHOOL BOARD OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF NORTH BRADDOCK; AND THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE BOROUGH OF NORTH BRADDOCK; THE ALLEGHENY INTERMEDIATE UNIT BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS AND EDWARD X. HALLENBERG AS PRESIDENT OF THE ALLEGHENY INTERMEDIATE BOARD OF SCHOOL DIRECTORS; CHURCHILL AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; EDGEWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT; SWISSVALE AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT; TURTLE CREEK AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. Civil No. 71-538)

Before Gibbons, Hunter and Garth, Circuit Judges.

Author: Garth

Opinion OF THE COURT

This appeal raises a challenge to one aspect of the remedy ordered by the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in the ten year old case of Hoots v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 71-538 (W.D.Pa. filed June 9, 1971). The full history of that case is set out in Judge Hunter's opinion affirming the liability and remedy phases of this case,*fn1 and thus will not be repeated here. All that need be said for purposes of this appeal is that the district court found that the school district lines in the central eastern portion of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, had been drawn in order to keep black and white students separated. Hoots v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 359 F. Supp. 807 (W.D.Pa.1973). The district court then determined that an interdistrict remedy was appropriate, Hoots v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 510 F. Supp. 615 (W.D.Pa.1981), and that four formerly independent, and largely white school districts-Churchill, Edgewood, Swissvale, and Turtle Creek-should be combined into a single district along with the largely black General Braddock Area School District, Hoots v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 71-538 (W.D.Pa. April 28, 1981). In its opinion and order of April 28, 1981, the district court also provided that an "Interim Operating Committee" ("IOC") should govern the new school district during the period of transition from five independent school districts to one consolidated district.

Appellants-the original plaintiffs and the defendant General Braddock Area School District-now contend that the district court's orders of June 8, 1981, and September 23, 1981, which related to the composition of the IOC and the timing of Board elections, violated the "one person, one vote" principle set out in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506 (1964). Because we find the principle of proportional representation to be inapplicable to the present case, and because we find no abuse of discretion in the challenged orders of the district court, we will affirm.

I.

As noted, the district court's order of April 28, 1981, provided that "(a)s of the date of this Order," Churchill, Edgewood, General Braddock, Swissvale, and Turtle Creek would cease to exist as separate school districts and be merged into a unitary "New School District." Order of April 28, 1981, at 13.*fn2 The order further provided that as of June 1, 1981, the governance of the New School District would be assumed by the IOC. Id. at 16.

The duties of the IOC, as laid out in the district court's order, were to implement the desegregation plan, to develop a proposal for dividing the New School District into nine equal voting regions from which members of the school board would be elected in the future, to choose a permanent name for the new district, and to "adopt a budget, levy and assess taxes and perform all acts and functions necessary to enable the New School District to function properly from and after the date of organization of the Interim Operating Committee." Id. at 15. In setting out the functions of the IOC, the district court largely followed the provisions of Pennsylvania statutes which in general govern the consolidation of school districts.*fn3 Similarly, in specifying the method of selection of members of the IOC, the district court's order was patterned after Pennsylvania law. The order mandated that the incumbent members of the boards of the five former school districts were to hold a convention on May 15, 1981, to select by majority vote nine persons from among themselves to serve on the IOC, with no more than two of the IOC members to be elected from any one former district. The terms of the IOC members, which were set at six years, were staggered so that three of the members' terms would expire on December 7, 1981, three on December 5, 1983, and three on December 2, 1985.*fn4

The convention of the school directors from the five former districts was held as scheduled on May 15, 1981.*fn5 The membership of the IOC chosen at the convention consisted of two directors from each former district except General Braddock, only one of whose directors was elected to the IOC. The plaintiffs and General Braddock objected before the district court that General Braddock was seriously underrepresented on the IOC. They charged that while General Braddock had one-quarter of the total population of the New School District, General Braddock was represented by only one out of the nine members of the IOC. General Braddock thus renewed its request to the district court, see note 5 supra, to amend its order of April 28, 1981, to appoint a tenth member to the IOC from General Braddock.

The district court denied this motion in an opinion and order of June 8, 1981.*fn6 It noted that

Although the court feels that the result of this election is unfortunate, there is no evidence that the current members of the Interim Operating Committee are treating the General Braddock Area School District in a disparate manner in the operation of the New School District. Finally, state law provides for memberships of nine (9) school directors and the court has not been presented with any evidence that would make it necessary to temporarily disturb that provision.

Opinion and Order of June 8, 1981, at 2. On July 7, 1981, General Braddock filed the notice of appeal at No. 81-2298 from the district court's order of June 8, 1981.

The transition proceeded apace and the five former school districts went out of existence, and their school boards ceased functioning, on June 30, 1981.*fn7 In the meantime, the plaintiffs and General Braddock sought reconsideration of the district court's orders of April 28, and June 8, 1981. See Motion for Reconsideration of Order of June 8, 1981 (filed June 17, 1981, by General Braddock); Motion to Modify and Amend Order of April 28, 1981, and June 8, 1981, to Provide for Proportionate Representation (filed June 26, 1981, by plaintiffs). Both motions sought the immediate addition of a tenth member to the IOC from General Braddock.*fn8 In addition, the plaintiffs requested an order requiring elections in November 1981 in all nine of the voting regions that were to be formed.

The district court did not act on these motions for reconsideration immediately. In the meantime, the IOC submitted a plan dividing the New School District, which it had decided to name "the Woodland Hills School District," into nine equal voting regions, no one of which was equivalent to any former school district. The district court approved this plan on September 10, 1981, and further provided for elections in November 1981 in the three "presently unrepresented regions"-that is, the three regions in which none of the current IOC ...


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