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Case Name U.S. v. Catahoula Parish School Board SD-LA-0011
Docket / Court 1:69-cv-14430-DDD ( W.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On February 10, 1969, the United States Department of Justice filed this school desegregation lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, to enjoin the operation of a racially segregated school system in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.

Judge Edwin Ford Hunter ... read more >
On February 10, 1969, the United States Department of Justice filed this school desegregation lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, to enjoin the operation of a racially segregated school system in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.

Judge Edwin Ford Hunter Jr. granted the Department of Justice’s motion for a preliminary injunction to create a unitary (that is, desegregated) school system in Catahoula Parish on June 24, 1969. At around the same time, the Fifth Circuit took on a more active role in school desegregation. On May 28, 1969, the Fifth Circuit decided Hall v. St. Helena Parish School Bd., 417 F.2d 801 (5th Cir. 1969), an opinion aggregating 38 other school desegregation cases. In its opinion, the Fifth Circuit explained (in accordance with its prior opinion in U.S. v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 380 F.2d 385 (5th Cir. en banc 1967), and the Supreme Court's opinion in Green v. School Bd. of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430 (1968)), that the constitutional duty to desegregated was not satisfied by ineffective plans that purported to desegregate merely by offering students “freedom of choice” about where to attend school.

Shortly after the Fifth Circuit decided Hall, a three-judge district court expressed its disagreement with the Fifth Circuit’s desire to desegregate quickly but nevertheless ordered Catahoula and twenty-eight other parishes to submit new desegregation plans. Conley v. Lake Charles, 303 F. Supp. 394 (1969). The Clearinghouse has additional information about the consolidated cases here. The panel officially approved the Parish’s desegregation plan on July 29, 1969, and responsibility for monitoring the desegregation efforts devolved to the original district court.

While Catahoula Parish has been consistently filing periodic reports with the court, the case has - until 2019 - been fairly quiet overall since the segregation plan was approved in 1969. In August 23, 1993, the court granted a motion by Catahoula Parish to implement a new Student Enrollment and Transfer Policy. On July 7, 1994, the desegregation plan was amended again, allowing Catahoula Parish to close one high school and consolidate two middle schools into one. Also on July 7, 1994, the court dismissed the motion of “Save Our Schools,” who moved to intervene in order to keep the Parish from integrating the schools. The court also granted Catahoula’s motion to close an elementary school and reassign the students on August 7, 1995. Since then the District Court has made orders consolidating another school and making it so that students who transfer (or are reassigned) under “majority-to-minority” provisions gain athletic eligibility at their new schools right away.

On January 24, 2019, the court (Judge Dee D. Drell) ordered the parties to review a YouTube video that had “come to the court’s attention.” The link ( is now broken, but the court’s description of the video suggested it contained a Now This News report that revealed the use of unqualified teachers and deterioration of the physical conditions at Parish schools in violation of court orders. The court, seemingly incensed that “NO PARTY” provided “[ANY] NOTICE” of the violations (emphasis in original), requested additional briefing, and a flurry of litigation ensued. On April 2, 2019 the court issued an order demanding (1) reports from the parties every two months; and (2) a plan to desegregate the school system and achieve unitary status.

Judge Drell recused himself from the case on June 3, 2019.

Judge Robert G. James issued an order declaring the school system unitary with respect to transportation on July 8, 2019. The court then consolidated this case with John Wesley Smith v. Catahoula Parish School Board, a 2019 state court case that the Parish removed to federal court involving a student’s request to be reassigned to a different school for medical reasons. (The court had control over student reassignments in the district as part of the 1969 desegregation plan.)

On September 3, 2019, the court approved a “Plan of Work” that, if adhered to by the Parish, would enable the school system to be declared unitary. The plan provided for (1) monitoring of student assignments; (2) monitoring and reporting as to faculty and staff assignments; (3) monitoring of extracurricular activities; and (4) site visits to physical facilities.

A year later, on September 1, 2020, the parties filed a joint motion to dismiss the case. On September 3, 2020 Judge Terry A. Doughty granted the motion to dismiss, stating that the school system "achieved unitary status in the final areas of student assignment, faculty and staff assignment, facilities, and quality of education" and had refrained from taking steps to reverse its progress. 2020 WL 5261198.

The case was dismissed with prejudice, and is now closed.

Related Opinions:
Conley v. Lake Charles, 303 F. Supp. 394 (1969)
Hall v. St. Helena Parish School Bd., 417 F.2d 801 (1969)

Alaael-Deen Shilleh - 04/30/2017
Sichun Liu - 06/01/2019
Samuel Poortenga - 10/09/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Discrimination Prohibition
Preliminary relief granted
Student assignment
Elementary/Secondary School
Race discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Racial segregation
Records Disclosure
School/University Facilities
School/University policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) Catahoula Parish School Board
Plaintiff Description United States Department of Justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
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
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1969 - 2020
Filed 02/10/1969
Case Closing Year 2020
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing SD-LA-0037 : Related School Desegregation Cases in the Western District of Louisiana (W.D. La.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
1:69-cv-14430-DDD (W.D. La.)
SD-LA-0011-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/03/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
[Order] (417 F.2d 801)
SD-LA-0011-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/28/1969
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (303 F.Supp. 394) (W.D. La.)
SD-LA-0011-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/05/1969
Source: Westlaw
SD-LA-0011-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/12/2012
Order [ECF# 27] (W.D. La.)
SD-LA-0011-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/24/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 47] (W.D. La.)
SD-LA-0011-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/02/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Proposed Plan of Work [ECF# 64]
SD-LA-0011-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/03/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Ruling [ECF# 95] (2020 WL 5261198) (W.D. La.)
SD-LA-0011-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/03/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Brown, John Robert (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
Cabot, Ted (S.D. Fla.) show/hide docs
Dawkins, Benjamin Cornwell Jr. (W.D. La.) show/hide docs
Doughty, Terry Alvin (W.D. La.) show/hide docs
Drell, Dee D. (W.D. La.) show/hide docs
SD-LA-0011-0004 | SD-LA-0011-0005
Godbold, John Cooper (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit) show/hide docs
Hunter, Edwin Ford Jr. (W.D. La.) show/hide docs
Putnam, Richard Johnson (W.D. La.) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Douglas, Nathaniel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Johnson, John (Louisiana) show/hide docs
Marshall, Franz (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Phillips, Colleen (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Vincent, Katherine (Louisiana) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Hammonds, Robert L. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
SD-LA-0011-0001 | SD-LA-0011-0006 | SD-LA-0011-9001
Other Lawyers Wright, Jack Jr. (Louisiana) show/hide docs

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