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Case Name Coppedge v. The Franklin County Board of Education SD-NC-0006
Docket / Court 5:65-cv-01796-F ( E.D.N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
On December 8, 1965, the plaintiffs filed this school desegregation suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs, a group of African-American school minor children by and through their parents, brought suit against the defendant Franklin County Board of ... read more >
On December 8, 1965, the plaintiffs filed this school desegregation suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The plaintiffs, a group of African-American school minor children by and through their parents, brought suit against the defendant Franklin County Board of Education to enjoin the operation of a segregated school system. They were represented by, among others, Jack Greenberg and Derrick A. Bell (for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund). The United States intervened as a party on January 20, 1966.

Prior to the 1965-66 school year, the Franklin County school system was wholly segregated. Attempts in 1963 and 1964 to desegregate resulted in violence and threats. Beginning in the 1965-66 school year, the Board adopted a freedom of choice desegregation plan pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It became clear, however, that the Board had no interest in sincerely pursuing desegregation through this -- or any -- means, and the freedom-of-choice plan did little to alter the status quo.

After the lawsuit was filed, the district court (Judge Algernon Butler) heard the plaintiffs' motions for a preliminary and permanent injunction and began discussions with the Board on workable desegregation plans. The Board's use of freedom of choice plans continued through 1967 in the face of "marked hostility to school desegregation . . . and wide publicity [to] acts of intimidation, threats and reprisals against Negro parents who . . . requested reassignment of their children to previously all-white schools." Coppedge & United States v. Franklin County Board of Education, 273 F.Supp. 289, 295 (E.D.N.C. Aug. 21, 1967).

Finally, on August 21, 1967, after little progress, Judge Butler ordered the Board to submit a more comprehensive and specific plan for desegregation -- not based on freedom of choice -- for the 1968-69 school year. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court; in doing so, it noted the extent of the threats, intimidation and violence that had, up to then, marked the district's desegregation efforts. It admonished the Board for its woefully inadequate attempts at desegregation, concluding that the Board had done virtually "nothing." Coppedge & United States v. Franklin County Board of Education, 394 F.2d 410, 412 (4th Cir. Apr. 8, 1968).

In the summer of 1968, the district court ordered the Board to submit new desegregation plans for the 1968-69 school year. The Board, of course, applied for a stay pending appeal of those orders, claiming administrative difficulties. The district court rebuffed that argument. Surveying the situation, it concluded
The defendants' conduct in this case, including the submission of desegregation plans manifestly incompatible with the letter and spirit of the orders requiring their submission, is a reflection of the marked community hostility to desegregation which brought about the initial rejection by this Court and the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit of defendants' freedom of choice plan. It is now well settled, however, that community hostility to desegregation, even in the form of the probability or threat of white pupils fleeing from districts in which Negroes significantly outnumber them, does not provide a legal defense against desegregation.
Coppedge & United States v. Franklin County Board of Education, 293 F.Supp. 356, 363 (E.D.N.C. Aug. 22, 1968). The Fourth Circuit affirmed the decision. 404 F.2d 1177.

Through the 1970s and into the 1990s, the case remained fairly stagnant, with the Board submitting its annual reports. The district court issued two more orders in that period, in 1970 and 1978, modifying the desegregation plans. In 1996, however, the district court (at this point Judge James Fox) determined that the Board was not in compliance with several aspects of the previous orders. As a result, it entered a new order.

By 2002, the Board claimed that it had made sufficient progress to move for a dismissal of the case and a declaration of unitary status. Judge Fox granted that motion in part (declaring unitary status in areas such as school transportation, facilities and faculty desegregation) but denying it in others (notably, student assignment). In 2003 and 2005, the district court entered two more orders, updating the Board's plans relating to the areas of the case that remained open.

As of early 2017, the case remained on-going.

Available Opinions
Coppedge & United States v. Franklin County Board of Education, 273 F.Supp. 289 (E.D.N.C. Aug. 21, 1967)
Coppedge & United States v. Franklin County Board of Education, 394 F.2d 410 (4th Cir. Apr. 8, 1968)
Coppedge & United States v. Franklin County Board of Education, 293 F.Supp. 356 (E.D.N.C. Aug. 22, 1968)
Coppedge & United States v. Franklin County Board of Education, 404 F.2d 1177 (4th Cir. Dec. 5, 1968) (en banc)
Coppedge & United States v. Franklin County Board of Education, 345 F.Supp.2d 467 (E.D.N.C. Oct. 5, 2004) (dispute over attorneys’ fees)

Greg Margolis - 02/27/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Busing
Discrimination Prohibition
Hire
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Preliminary relief denied
Student assignment
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Education
Racial segregation
School/University Facilities
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Race
Black
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Franklin County
Plaintiff Description African-American minor school children by and through their parents, with the United States as an intervening plaintiff.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1966 - n/a
Filing Year 1965
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
5:65-cv-01796-F (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/21/2009
Source: Pro Publica
General Documents
Opinion and Order (273 F.Supp. 289) (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/21/1967
Source: Papers of Owen Fiss
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, at Raleigh (394 F.2d 410)
SD-NC-0006-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/08/1968
Source: Papers of Owen Fiss
[Order] (293 F.Supp. 356) (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 08/22/1968
Source: Westlaw
[Order] (404 F.2d 1177)
SD-NC-0006-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/05/1968
Source: Westlaw
Order [Regarding Motion to Dismiss] (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/24/2002
Source: Pro Publica
Consent Decree (2003) (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/01/2003
Source: U.S. DOJ, Civil Rights Division, Education Section
[Order] (345 F.Supp.2d 567) (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/05/2004
Source: Westlaw
Consent Decree (2005) (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2005
Source: U.S. DOJ, Civil Rights Division, Education Section
Judges Boreman, Herbert Stephenson (N.D. W. Va., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0006-0002
Bryan, Albert Vickers (FISC, E.D. Va., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0006-0002
Butler, Algernon Lee (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-0003 | SD-NC-0006-0006
Butzner, John Decker Jr. (E.D. Va., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0006-0002
Craven, James Braxton Jr. (W.D.N.C., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0006-0002
Fox, James Carroll (E.D.N.C.)
SD-NC-0006-0001 | SD-NC-0006-0004 | SD-NC-0006-0005 | SD-NC-0006-0008
Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0006-0002 | SD-NC-0006-0007
Sobeloff, Simon E. (Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0006-0002
Winter, Harrison Lee (D. Md., Fourth Circuit)
SD-NC-0006-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bell, Derrick A. Jr. (New York)
SD-NC-0006-9000
Chambers, Julius LeVonne (New York)
SD-NC-0006-9000
Doar, John (District of Columbia)
SD-NC-0006-9000
Greenburg, Jack (New York)
SD-NC-0006-9000
Pearson, Conrad O. (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Jolly, W M (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0006-9000
Tucker, Irvin B (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0006-9000
Yarborough, E.F (North Carolina)
SD-NC-0006-9000

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