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Case Name Miller & United States of America v. Board of Education of Gadsden SD-AL-0008
Docket / Court 4:63-cv-00574-LSC ( N.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) School Desegregation
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
This school desegregation case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in 1963 and ended in 2005. Brought by private plaintiffs and the United States, it dealt with the public schools in the city of Gadsden, Alabama.

Note: Most of the following summary ... read more >
This school desegregation case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in 1963 and ended in 2005. Brought by private plaintiffs and the United States, it dealt with the public schools in the city of Gadsden, Alabama.

Note: Most of the following summary comes from the decision by Judge L. Scott Coogler declaring the case over and the schools "unitary" (a legal declaration that the school district is in compliance with the Equal Protection Clause's mandate of integrated schools) on August 26, 2005, after more than 40 years of court ordered desegregation efforts. There was only one published opinion on Westlaw for the case (detailed below).

In 1963, the plaintiff, Catherine Miller, through her mother, filed this action to enjoin the school segregation in Gadsden, Alabama.

On December 27, 1963, the court found that the Board was violating the Constitution by operating a dual school district; it ordered the Board to desegregate under a "freedom of choice" plan. However, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430 (1968) disapproving of freedom-of-choice as a desegregation remedy, the district court ordered the Board to revise its plan. On July 25, 1969, the Board did so.

Between 1969 and 1975, the district court approved various amendments and additions to the Board's plan. One of these amendments concerned an issue that ultimately reached the Fifth Circuit. In March of 1972, the plaintiffs filed a motion for further relief, requesting that the Board amend its plan to comply with the Supreme Court's decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1 (1971). The district court approved the Board's amendments, but on appeal, the Fifth Circuit found the Board's changes inadequate in light of Swann. 482 F.2d 1234 (5th Cir. Aug. 7, 1973).

In April 1975, the Board adopted a plan based on a University of Tennessee Study, which attempted to maximize desegregation without resorting to busing. Instead, it shifted the boundaries within the district and more strictly enforced zone attendance.

On October 23, 1987, the district court entered a show cause order why the case should not be dismissed. However, on October 11, 1988, the court stayed all action on its desegregation cases pending the resolution of several related cases on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. Finally, in 1995, the parties jointly agreed to a consent decree. The order required the Board to implement a voluntary "majority-to-minority" student transfer policy. It also listed actions pursuant to all areas outlined in Green and Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467 (1992). The consent decree lasted four years.

In May 1999, the Board petitioned for -- and was granted -- unitary status by the district court (Judge William Acker). However, the Eleventh Circuit reversed and remanded for further factual finding. Miller v. Board of Education of Gadsden, Alabama, No. 00-1224 (11th Cir. Aug. 8, 2001).

On July 14, 2003, the district court approved another consent decree. (Later modified again in 2004.) The decree provided for the consolidation of the system's high schools and the closing of one elementary school. It concluded that the Board had achieved unitary status in many of the Green areas and discharged its jurisdiction over those areas. It also outlined the Board's remaining obligations. It finally provided that within 30 days of the end of the 2004-05 school year, the Board could file a motion for full unitary status.

On June 10, 2005, the Board again filed a motion for unitary status. The United States, which had earlier intervened in the case, stated that it had no objections -- as did the private plaintiffs, who also reserved the right to reverse their view after a public hearing.

On August 26, 2005, the court (at this point, Judge L. Scott Coogler) declared the school system unitary. In his order, Judge Coogler assessed favorably the Board's progress in the remaining areas of the 2003 decree, including, among other things, the Majority-to-Minority Transfer Policy, Facilities, Student Assignment, and Future Action.

On February 11, 2016, the district court denied the private plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

Available Opinionss
Miller v. Board of Education of Gadsden, 482 F.2d 1234 (5th Cir. Aug. 7, 1973)
Miller and United States of America v. Board of Education of Gadsden, Alabama, Civ. A. No. CV.63-CO-474 (N.D. Ala. Aug. 26, 2005) (declaring unitary status).

Greg Margolis - 02/23/2017

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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
Racial segregation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) City of Gadsden
Plaintiff Description African-American school children and the United States of America
Indexed Lawyer Organizations 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 No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Declaratory Judgment
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1963 - 2005
Filing Year 1963
Case Closing Year 2005
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Resisting Retreat: the Struggle for Equity in Educational Opportunity in the Post-Brown Era
Date: Fall 2004
By: Lia B. Epperson (NAACP Legal Defense Fund)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

4:63-cv-00574-LSC (N.D. Ala.)
SD-AL-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/03/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Brief for the United States as Appellant
SD-AL-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/30/2000
Source: Pro Publica
Order [Reversing and Remanding Case] [Ct. of App. ECF# 383]
SD-AL-0008-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/08/2001
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order [ECF# 440] (N.D. Ala.)
SD-AL-0008-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/14/2003
Source: U.S. DOJ, Civil Rights Division, Education Section
Motion for Declaration of Unitary Status and Order of Dismissal [ECF# 462]
SD-AL-0008-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/10/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Opinion [Concerning Unitary Status] [ECF# 479] (N.D. Ala.)
SD-AL-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/26/2005
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Birch, Stanley F. Jr. (Eleventh Circuit)
Coogler, L. Scott (N.D. Ala.)
SD-AL-0008-0002 | SD-AL-0008-0005 | SD-AL-0008-9000
Farris, Joseph Jerome (Ninth Circuit)
Wilson, Charles R. (M.D. Fla., Eleventh Circuit)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boddie, Elise C. (New York)
Boyd, Ralph F. Jr. (District of Columbia)
Chachkin, Norman J. (New York)
Dimsey, Dennis J. (District of Columbia)
Epperson, Lia B. (District of Columbia)
SD-AL-0008-0005 | SD-AL-0008-9000
Evans, Lisa (District of Columbia)
Glassman, Jeremiah (District of Columbia)
Guzman, Javier M (District of Columbia)
Hodgkiss, Anita S. (District of Columbia)
Hu, Margaret (District of Columbia)
Jones, Elaine R. (District of Columbia)
SD-AL-0008-0005 | SD-AL-0008-9000
Kelly, Sharon D. (Alabama)
Kelly, Anita L. (Alabama)
SD-AL-0008-0005 | SD-AL-0008-9000
King, Troy Robin (Alabama)
Lee, Bill Lann (District of Columbia)
Lewis, Herbert J III (Alabama)
Martin, Alice H. (Alabama)
Maurer, Michael S. (District of Columbia)
Parker, Dennis D. (New York)
Pryor, William Holcombe Jr. (Alabama)
Stark, Lisa J. (District of Columbia)
Taylor, Lisa M. (District of Columbia)
SD-AL-0008-0005 | SD-AL-0008-9000
Trippe, Linda S. (Alabama)
White, Michael Ronald (Alabama)
Defendant's Lawyers Biggs, Gregory Marion (Alabama)
Craven, Larry Eugene (Alabama)
Dean, Juliana Faria Teixeira (Alabama)
Henslee, R. Kent (Alabama)
SD-AL-0008-0004 | SD-AL-0008-9000
Knowles, Christie D (Alabama)
SD-AL-0008-0004 | SD-AL-0008-0005 | SD-AL-0008-9000 | SD-AL-0008-9000
Sorrells, Reginald Lee (Alabama)
Strawn, Ralph K. Jr. (Alabama)
Sullivan, Joshua B. (Alabama)
SD-AL-0008-0005 | SD-AL-0008-9000

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