University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Smith v. Berkeley Unified School District ED-CA-0003
Docket / Court 4:04-cv-03306-WDB ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
Three named plaintiffs (each a minor, acting through their parents) were African American and Latino students who had attended, but had been expelled or indefinitely excluded from, comprehensive middle school or high school in the Berkeley Unified School District. Citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the ... read more >
Three named plaintiffs (each a minor, acting through their parents) were African American and Latino students who had attended, but had been expelled or indefinitely excluded from, comprehensive middle school or high school in the Berkeley Unified School District. Citing 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiffs brought litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on August 13, 2004, against the Berkeley Unified School District (the "District"), the Berkeley Board of Education, Superintendent, and Director of the Offices of Student Services. The plaintiffs were represented by private counsel and attorneys from Legal Services for Children and the Youth and Education Law Clinic.

Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants, pursuant to a policy and practice of unlawfully infringing upon the constitutional due process and statutory rights of plaintiffs, wrongfully and arbitrarily excluded them from school or wrongfully and arbitrarily reassigned them from comprehensive school programs to county community schools, continuation schools, home-hospital instruction programs, and independent study programs for the alleged violations of student conduct rules. These policies, according to plaintiffs, had a disparate negative impact and arbitrarily and discriminatorily excluded African American and Latino students from comprehensive school programs by assigning them to non-comprehensive alternative programs. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants' policies and practices denied plaintiffs their right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States, as well as denying plaintiffs' state constitutional, statutory, and regulatory rights. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, class action status for their case, and payment of attorneys' fees and costs. The plaintiff class was defined as African Americans and Latinos self-identified as such in official records who have been students in the Berkeley Unified School District and who have been involuntarily excluded from comprehensive school or involuntarily reassigned from comprehensive school programs to non-comprehensive alternative programs for alleged violations of the District's student conduct rules without having received appropriate due process of law.

By December 2004, a mediator had been assigned to the case and subsequent settlement discussions resulted in a March 2005 proposed consent decree and provisional certification of a settlement class. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil preliminarily approved the settlement and class certification on May 17, 2005. After a final fairness hearing, Magistrate Judge Brazil signed the stipulated judgment and order certifying the class, designating class representatives, and appointing class counsel on August 17, 2005.

The settlement provided for means of identifying and contacting potential class members and offering them immediate reinstatement in the district's schools, if they remained otherwise eligible. Each individual class member would receive an individualized education plan setting out how the district would aid the student in earning credits and provide compensatory educational services to the student. Students found to have been unlawfully excluded from the district's school would have their records expunged or modified to reflect the exclusion was unlawful. A monitoring committee would ensure that policies, practices and training programs were adopted to prevent unlawful exclusion of students in the future, and would be provided data by the district to enable addressing racial or ethnic disproportionality in school discipline. A dispute resolution process and a students' rights monitoring committee were established by the settlement. The agreement called for the monitoring committee to make quarterly reports to the court on district compliance. The agreement set out a three-year time frame, after which the district could move for termination of the decree if it believed it had complied sufficiently. A compliance hearing by the court would independently assess compliance, however. Finally, the consent decree called for defendants to make payment of $50,000 as plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs.

On March 4, 2011 the Court granted the parties' Joint Motion to lift the Consent Decree and terminate the litigation.

Joshua Arocho - 06/05/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Board of Education of the Berkeley Unified School District
Plaintiff Description All African-American and Latino students in the Berkeley Unified School District who have been involuntarily excluded or reassigned from comprehensive school programs for alleged student conduct rules violations without appropriate due process of law.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Voluntary Dismissal
Order Duration 2005 - 2011
Case Closing Year 2011
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity Through the State Courts
By: Michael Rebell (Columbia University, and Campaign for Educational Equity)
Citation: (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
4:04-cv-03306-WDB (N.D. Cal.) 03/04/2011
ED-CA-0003-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Civil Rights Complaint for Declaratory Relief, Injunctive Relief and Damages 08/13/2004
ED-CA-0003-0001 PDF | Detail
Order (1) Provisionally Certifying Class for Settlement Purposes, (2) Approving Parties' Proposed Notice Plan, (3) Setting Date for Fairness Hearing, (4) Preliminarily Approving Consent Decree, and (5) Conditionally Granting Attorneys' Fees 05/17/2005 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0003-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Decree 08/05/2005
ED-CA-0003-0002 PDF | Detail
Stipulated Judgment and Order Certifying Plaintiff Class and Designating Class Representatives and Class Counsel 08/17/2005 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0003-0004 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Motion for Termination of Consent Decree and Request for Hearing 02/16/2011 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0003-0005 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Brazil, Wayne D. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
ED-CA-0003-0003 | ED-CA-0003-0004 | ED-CA-0003-9000
Wilkin, Claudia Court not on record
ED-CA-0003-0005
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abrams, William F. (California)
ED-CA-0003-0001 | ED-CA-0003-0002 | ED-CA-0003-9000
Dunn, Molly Lorraine (California)
ED-CA-0003-0001 | ED-CA-0003-9000
Koski, William Sheldon (California)
ED-CA-0003-0001 | ED-CA-0003-0002 | ED-CA-0003-0005 | ED-CA-0003-9000
Nohle, Peter H. (California)
ED-CA-0003-0001 | ED-CA-0003-9000
Ruiz, Gabriela Magda (Florida)
ED-CA-0003-0001 | ED-CA-0003-9000
Trillin, Abigail (California)
ED-CA-0003-0001 | ED-CA-0003-0002 | ED-CA-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Sacks, Marleen Lee (California)
ED-CA-0003-0002 | ED-CA-0003-0005 | ED-CA-0003-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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