University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Freeman v. Pitts SD-GA-0002
Docket / Court Civil Action 11946 ( N.D. Ga. )
Additional Docket(s) 88-8775  [ 88-8775 ]
State/Territory Georgia
Case Type(s) Education
School Desegregation
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
This school desegregation case began after the DeKalb County School System (DCSS) adopted a free choice program in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s integration mandate in Brown v. Board of Education. The plan had little overall effect; a few black students decided to attend the ... read more >
This school desegregation case began after the DeKalb County School System (DCSS) adopted a free choice program in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s integration mandate in Brown v. Board of Education. The plan had little overall effect; a few black students decided to attend the previously all-white schools, but no white students decided to attend the previously all-black schools. This summary is based on information from historical sources and judicial opinions.

On July 5, 1968, several black school children with their parents, filed a putative class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against DeKalb County. They argued that the free choice plan was insufficient, based on the Supreme Court's May 1968 decision in Green v. School Board of New Kent County, holding that the mere adoption of school choice plans did not satisfy the desegregation requirements of Brown v. Board of Education. In Green, the Supreme Court held school districts needed to be desegregated with respect to all aspects of school administration including: student assignment, faculty, staff, transportation, extracurricular activities, and physical facilities. These six areas of school operations have come to be known as the Green factors.

After the filing of the DeKalb complaint, the School District began working with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) to create an integration plan. The plan eliminated school choice and required instead that all previously designated black schools be closed and the students be enrolled in the remaining, (previously white) schools. This plan was approved in a consent decree by the District Court in June of 1969 and the District Court maintained jurisdiction. See Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992).

In 1976 the District Court ordered additional requirements for the integration plan to be added. The DCSS was required to: (1) expand their Majority-to-minority transfer program (a program that allowed students that were in the majority race of their current school, to transfer to a school where they would be the minority race); (2) create a bi-racial committee to oversee future boundary line changes and the transfer program; (3) reassign teachers so that the ratio of black to white teachers at a given school was similar to the racial balance of the school district’s population. According to Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992), there had been large population shifts in the district, resulting in an increase of black families and school children in the southern part of the district (and an increasingly white population in the northern district). Accordingly, in 1983, the District Court ordered DCSS was again to make changes to the transfer program.

As populations continued to shift, DCSS made adjustments to the integration plans. But this brought about new issues. For example, when one primarily white school became over enrolled, DCSS attempted to expand the physical grounds of the school rather than transferring the extra students to a neighboring black school. The District Court found this action was acceptable because the DCSS had been a unitary school district since 1969. On March 22, 1985, the Fifth Circuit reversed this order, finding the school district was not desegregated, and that until it became a unitary district, any state action perpetuating the dual features would violate the mandate to desegregate. Pitts v. Freeman, 755 F.2d 1423 (11th Cir. 1985).

In 1986 the School District moved to dismiss the case because it had met all of the requirements of the consent decree – creating a unitary system. In 1988, the District Court found that DCSS had achieved maximum practical desegregation from 1969 to 1986 and was a unitary system with regard to student assignments, transportation, physical facilities, and extracurricular activities (referencing the Green factors). The court ruled it would order no further relief in those areas. Additionally, it found the rapid population shifts in DeKalb County were not caused by any action on the part of the DCSS. The District Court relinquished jurisdiction over the four completed Green factors but ordered the School District to remedy the remaining factors of teacher and principal assignments, resource allocation, and quality of education. For the remaining three categories the District Court maintained jurisdiction. See Pitts by Pitts v. Freeman, 887 F.2d 1438 (11th Cir. 1989) for a detailed description of the satisfied Green factors. Both parties appealed to the 11th Circuit. The 11th Circuit reversed the District Court, holding that a school achieves unitary status only after satisfying all six factors addressed in Green and that judicial control over all categories was required. Freeman, 887 F.2d 1438 (1989).

The School District obtained review to the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court, reversed the 11th Circuit. The Court held that, in the course of supervising desegregation plans, federal courts have the authority to relinquish supervision and control of school districts before full compliance had been achieved in every area of school operations. Justice Kennedy stated the vestiges of segregation must be the actual causal link to the de jure violation being remedied and therefore the any remedy imposed could only be implemented in so far as it advanced the objective of alleviating the initial constitutional violation of segregation. But, where re-segregation was the result of private choice, it was beyond the authority of the federal courts to take measures to counteract massive demographic shifts. Justice Kennedy explained District Courts should consider whether there had been satisfactory compliance with the remedial decree, whether retention of judicial control was necessary, and whether the school district had demonstrated it had a good-faith commitment to the whole of the remedial decree and the requirements of the Constitution. Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992).

The 11th Circuit remanded to the District Court to consider the remaining Green factors and the additional factors of education quality and the good faith commitment of the school district. Pitts by Pitts v. Freeman, 979 F.2d 1472 (11th Cir. 1992).

The procedural history following the 11th Circuit remand is documented in Mills v. Freeman, 942 F. Supp. 1449 (N.D. Ga. 1996). On September 8, 1995 the Court issued an order stating it would not dismiss the suit with respect to the categories of faculty assignments, resource allocation, quality of education, and “good faith”, because the district was not in full compliance.

The Defendants later moved to dismiss. On June 12, 1996, the District Court found DCSS had met its requirements and dismissed the case. Mills v. Freeman, 942 F. Supp. 1449 (N.D. Ga. 1996).

There was further litigation regarding attorney’s fees as discussed in Mills by Mills v. Freeman, 118 F.3d 727 (11th Cir. 1997).

This case is now closed.

Reported decisions:
Pitts v. Freeman, 755 F.2d 1423 (11th Cir. 1985).
Pitts by Pitts v. Freeman, 887 F.2d 1438 (11th Cir. 1989).
Pitts v. Freeman, 891 F.2d 907 (Table) (11th Cir. 1989).
Freeman v. Pitts, 498 U.S. 1081 (1991).
Freeman v. Pitts, 498 U.S. 1081(1991).
Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992).
Pitts by Pitts v. Freeman, 979 F.2d 1472 (11th Cir. 1992).
Mills v. Freeman, 942 F. Supp. 1449 (N.D. Ga. 1996).
Mills by Mills v. Freeman, 118 F.3d 727 (11th Cir. 1997).

Taylor Brook - 03/01/2019


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Slavery/Involuntary servitude
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Preliminary relief granted
Student assignment
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Education
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) DeKalb County Board of Education
Robert Freeman
Plaintiff Description black citizens and their children in DeKalb County, Georgia.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 1969 - n/a
Filing Year 1968
Case Closing Year 1996
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing SD-VA-0002 : Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, Va (E.D. Va.)
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  Freeman v. Pitts, 112 S. Ct. 1430 (1992): The Travails of A "Garden Variety Desegregation Case"
Date: May 1993
By: Margo Schlanger (Yale Law School Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
Civil Action 11946 (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/17/1988
68-11946 (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-9002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/20/1995
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
1:68−cv−11946 (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/29/1998
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint
SD-GA-0002-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/05/1968
Complaint
SD-GA-0002-0026.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/05/1968
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Opinion and Order (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/03/1976
Order Modifying M-to-M Program (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/03/1976
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Order Modifying the M to M transfer Program (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0022.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/03/1976
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Order for Hearing on May 15, 1978 (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/03/1978
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Order Approving Motion to Amend Attendance Zones (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/23/1978
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
[Opinion] (598 F.2d 1005)
SD-GA-0002-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/16/1979
NAACP Complaint
SD-GA-0002-0025.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/1983
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Memorandum Opinion (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/1983
Memo Opinion on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction of Defendants' Administrative Action (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0023.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/08/1983
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Memorandum Opinion [Denying Preliminary Injunction] (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/22/1984
Untitled (755 F.2d 1423)
SD-GA-0002-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/22/1985
Order Denying Plaintiff's Request to Enjoin Implementation of Defendants' Desegregation Plan (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/31/1985
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Order Denying Motion to Dismiss as Not All Factors Met (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/1988
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Defendant's report to the Court on Per Pupil Expenditures
SD-GA-0002-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/31/1989
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Petition for Certiorari
SD-GA-0002-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/12/1990
Order Directing Defendants to Submit Proposal of Remedial Action Complying with Order of COA (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0019.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/26/1990
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Defendants' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Injunction
SD-GA-0002-0024.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/30/1990
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Order Allowing New Party in Case (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/21/1990
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Order Granting Defendants Bonds for School Improvement Pending Budget Plan (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/01/1993
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
Order Calling for Defendants to Submit New Brief (N.D. Ga.)
SD-GA-0002-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/27/1995
Source: Univ. of Michigan Law Library
show all people docs
Judges Edenfield, Newell (N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0005 | SD-GA-0002-0014 | SD-GA-0002-0015 | SD-GA-0002-0016 | SD-GA-0002-0022
Erba, Andrew F. Court not on record show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0009
Goldberg, Irving Loeb (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0006
O'Kelley, William Clark (FISC, N.D. Ga.) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0007 | SD-GA-0002-0008 | SD-GA-0002-0013 | SD-GA-0002-0017 | SD-GA-0002-0018 | SD-GA-0002-0019 | SD-GA-0002-0020 | SD-GA-0002-0021 | SD-GA-0002-0023 | SD-GA-0002-9000 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Pittman, Thomas Virgil (M.D. Ala., S.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0009
Roney, Paul Hitch (FISCR, Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0006
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0006
Vance, Robert Smith (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0009
Plaintiff's Lawyers Abrams, Willie (Maryland) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9000 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Edwards, Boykin Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9000 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Greenberg, Jack (New York) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0004 | SD-GA-0002-0026
Hailes, Edward A. Jr. (Maryland) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9000 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Hawkins, J. Stanley (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0003 | SD-GA-0002-0024 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Hopson, Mark Daniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0003
Johnson, Charles Spurgeon III (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9000 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Lee, Rex E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0003
Moore, Howard Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0004 | SD-GA-0002-0026 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Myer, John Rea (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9002
Parks, Allan Leroy Jr. (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9002
Phillips, Carter G (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0003
Ralston, Charles Stephen (New York) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0004 | SD-GA-0002-0026
Rindskopf, Peter E. (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0004 | SD-GA-0002-0026 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Seward, Coleman (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0025
Walbert, David F. (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9002
Weatherly, Charles L. (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0003 | SD-GA-0002-0024 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Wilde, Kathleen L. (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9002
Defendant's Lawyers Sams, Gary M. (Georgia) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-0003 | SD-GA-0002-0012 | SD-GA-0002-0024 | SD-GA-0002-9000 | SD-GA-0002-9002
Other Lawyers Baker, Robert B. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
SD-GA-0002-9002

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -