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Case Name Turner v. Warren County Board of Education SD-NC-0004
Docket / Court 63-1482 ( E.D.N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
On November 4, 1963, the plaintiffs brought this school desegregation lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The class action plaintiffs, African-American minor school children by and through their parents, sued the defendant Warren County Board of Education ... read more >
On November 4, 1963, the plaintiffs brought this school desegregation lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The class action plaintiffs, African-American minor school children by and through their parents, sued the defendant Warren County Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a segregated school system. They were represented by lawyers including Jack Greenberg and Derrick A. Bell (for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund).

For 10 years after Brown, the Board did nothing to desegregate, operating a school assignment plan that sent students to the same school they had attended the year before. In response to the plaintiffs' action, the district court issued a consent degree, ordering the defendant Board to implement a freedom-of-choice plan. However, on May 16, 1967, the court granted a preliminary injunction, finding that the Board's plan was not furthering desegregation. Over the course of 1967 and 1968, the district court repeatedly ordered the Board to devise new desegregation plans, finding the various proposals consistently inadequate.

In 1969, a Warren County state representative sponsored two bills in the state General Assembly that split the Warren County schools into three separate districts by creating two new school districts. The plaintiffs challenged the acts as unconstitutional given that the resulting racial composition of the Warren County schools would be 7 percent white and 90 percent black. The district court (Judge Algernon Butler) agreed. On May 23, 1970, it found the acts unconstitutional because they "promote[d]" segregation ... and frustrate the lawful orders of the court." Turner v. Warren County Board of Education, 313 F.Supp. 380, 384 (E.D.N.C. May 23, 1970). The Fourth Circuit affirmed, concluding:
The finding of the district court that the primary purpose of the legislation was to carve out a refuge for white students and preserve to the extent possible segregated schools in Warren County is supported by substantial evidence, and indeed, is inescapable.
Turner v. Littleton-Lake Gaston School District, 442 F.2d 584, 587 (4th Cir. Mar. 23, 1971).

After these decisions, the case went dormant. Perhaps the district remains under court order, but it does not appear there has been much -- if any -- litigation or action. Indeed, even the Board itself is uncertain. An article in The Atlantic in 2014 described the situation:
A school board lawyer for Warren County, North Carolina, said he contacted the federal courthouse in Raleigh to see whether that district's court order had ended, but said court officials told him the records had been shipped to the federal archives, and thus they couldn't give him an answer.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, School Districts Still Face Fights--and Confusion--on Integration, The Atlantic (May 2, 2014).

Available Opinions
Turner v. Warren County Board of Education, 313 F.Supp. 380 (E.D.N.C. May 23, 1970)
Turner v. Littleton-Lake Gaston School District, 442 F.2d 584 (4th Cir. Mar. 23, 1971)

Greg Margolis - 03/05/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief granted
Reporting
Student assignment
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Education
Racial segregation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) Warren County
Plaintiff Description African-American minor children, by and through their parents, who attended school in the Warren County school system.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1970 - n/a
Filing Year 1963
Case Ongoing Perhaps, but long-dormant
Docket(s)
No. 1482 Civil (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/28/1972
Source: Pro Publica
General Documents
[Order] (313 F.Supp. 380) (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0004-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/23/1970
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (442 F.2d 584)
SD-NC-0004-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/23/1971
Source: Westlaw
Judges Boreman, Herbert Stephenson (Fourth Circuit, N.D. W. Va.)
SD-NC-0004-0002
Bryan, Albert Vickers (E.D. Va., Fourth Circuit, FISC)
SD-NC-0004-0002
Butler, Algernon Lee (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0004-0001
Butzner, John Decker Jr. (E.D. Va., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0004-0002
Craven, James Braxton Jr. (Fourth Circuit, W.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0004-0002
Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0004-0002
Sobeloff, Simon E. (Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0004-0002
Winter, Harrison Lee (D. Md., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0004-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bell, Derrick A. Jr. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Chambers, Julius LeVonne (New York)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Clayton, Theaosesus (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Creech, William A. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Greenberg, Jack (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Pearson, Conrad O. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Walker, James R. Jr. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Banzet, Frank (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Crew, W. Lunsford (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Ellis, Thomas F. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
McLean, William S. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000
Taylor, William W. Jr. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0004-9000

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