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Case Name Gary B. v. Snyder ED-MI-0006
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-13292-SJM-APP ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization Public Counsel
Case Summary
On September 13, 2016, seven school children, represented by a California public interest law firm, filed this class action suit against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and state education officials in the Eastern District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs alleged that the state ... read more >
On September 13, 2016, seven school children, represented by a California public interest law firm, filed this class action suit against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and state education officials in the Eastern District of Michigan under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs alleged that the state denied students their constitutional right to literacy.

Background
The plaintiffs were students at five of Detroit’s lowest performing schools: Hamilton Academy, Experiencia Preparatory Academy, Medicine and Community Health Academy at Cody, Osborn Academy of Mathematics, and Osborn Evergreen Academy of Design and Alternative Energy. The student proficiency rates in these schools hovered near zero in core subject areas. At Hamilton, for example, 100% of the 6th graders scored below proficiency in both reading and math.

The complaint documented what it alleged to be pervasive conditions that denied children the opportunity to attain literacy, including lack of books, classrooms without teachers, insufficient desks, buildings plagued by vermin, unsafe facilities, and extreme temperatures.

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them the fundamental right to literacy, as compared to other students in Michigan, and by functionally excluding plaintiffs from Michigan’s statewide system of public education. Second, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants violated the state-created danger doctrine by affirmatively creating and increasing the risk that plaintiffs would be exposed to dangerous conditions, from which the plaintiffs were harmed as a result. Third, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution by intentionally discriminating against the plaintiffs, or responding with deliberate indifference, on the basis of the plaintiffs’ race. Fourth, the complaint alleged that the defendants violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when the defendants utilized criteria or methods of administration that had the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, or national origin.

The defendants sought a judicial declaration that the defendants had violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, they asked the court to order the State to provide appropriate, evidence-based literacy instruction at all grade levels and to address physical school conditions that impaired access to literacy.

Procedural History
On November 17, 2016, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The defendants argued that the claims brought by the plaintiffs were non-justiciable because the plaintiffs lacked standing under U.S. Constitution, Article III, §2; the relief requested was barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity; and the claims themselves were barred by the Rooker/Feldman Doctrine. As to the last point, the defendants argued that a case with similar claims that sought to include all children of the Detroit Public Schools had been brought and dismissed in state court (Moore v. Snyder), and that by bringing this case, the plaintiffs were asking the Federal District Court to review state judicial proceedings, which the court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to do. Furthermore, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs' claims must be dismissed because they failed on the merits: there was no fundamental right to literacy, the claim failed under the state-created danger doctrine, there was no constitutional violation on the basis of race, and there was no discrimination under Title VI.

Several amicus briefs were filed for both parties. On May 16, 2017 District Court Judge Stephen J. Murphy III held a hearing on the motion to dismiss. On July 27, 2018, Judge Murphy granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. 329 F.Supp.3d 344. He found that there was no constitutional right to access literacy and that Michigan's implementation of various educational laws was not irrational and thus did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.

On July 30, 2018, the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Judges Eric Clay, Jane Stranch, and Eric Murphy heard oral arguments on October 24, 2019. On April 23, 2020, Judges Clay and Stranch delivered an opinion affirming in part and reversing in part the District Court. They agreed with the lower court that the plaintiffs had not proven their Equal Protection or compulsory attendance-Due Process claims. They held, however, that a basic minimum right to education is a fundamental right under the Constitution, and that a basic minimum right to education includes a foundational level of literacy, which plaintiffs had adequately demonstrated they did not receive in their schools. 957 F.3d 616. Judge Murphy dissented, disagreeing that the court had the authority to establish a new fundamental right to education.

On May 14, 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and plaintiffs' counsel announced that they had reached a settlement agreement. The settlement included individual awards to the seven student plaintiffs to further their education, funding to support literacy programs in Detroit schools, and the creation of two task forces to monitor the quality of education in Detroit and advise the Michigan Governor on education reform in the city. The Governor also agreed to propose legislation that would provide Detroit schools with even more funding for literacy programs, and to remove a prohibition on Detroit's use of bonds to raise capital for its schools. There is no official end date on the settlement and no official monitor, though the parties agreed that they could seek judicial enforcement if necessary.

On May 19, 2020, after the settlement was announced, the Sixth Circuit took the unusual step of voting sua sponte to rehear the case en banc. 958 F.3d 1216. This vacated the Sixth Circuit opinion that found a basic minimum right to education.

The plaintiffs subsequently moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that it was moot because a settlement had been reached. The Sixth Circuit granted the dismissal on June 11, 2020.

Current Status
Because the Sixth Circuit vacated the April 2020 opinion, it does not have precedential value, though the language of the opinion still exists for plaintiffs to potentially draw on in the future. The settlement still stands and its terms are ongoing.

Soojin Cha - 10/03/2016
Mackenzie Walz - 03/22/2018
Hope Brinn - 04/08/2020
Hetali Lodaya - 06/16/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Reporting
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
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) Governor of Michigan
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are seven school children in Michigan who attend schools that have histories of poor performance.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Public Counsel
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Moot
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 09/13/2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Gary B. v. Snyder
Right to Literacy Detroit
Date: 2016
By: Right to Literacy Detroit
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
E.D. Mich. 2:16-cv-13292
ED-MI-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Mich.
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
ED-MI-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/13/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Mich.
Opinion and Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [60] [ECF# 117] (329 F.Supp.3d 344)
ED-MI-0006-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/27/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
U.S. Court of Appeals
Opinion (957 F.3d 616)
ED-MI-0006-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/23/2020
not recorded
Terms for Settlement Agreement and Release Between All Plaintiffs and the Governor of the State of Michigan
ED-MI-0006-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/13/2020
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Judges Clay, Eric L. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
ED-MI-0006-0004
Murphy, Stephen Joseph III (E.D. Mich.) show/hide docs
ED-MI-0006-0002 | ED-MI-0006-9000
Murphy, Eric Earl (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
ED-MI-0006-0004
Patti, Anthony P. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
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Stranch, Jane Branstetter (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
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Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, Joshua E. (California) show/hide docs
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Caminker, Evan H. (California) show/hide docs
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Chemerinsky, Erwin (California) show/hide docs
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Eidmann, Kathryn A. (California) show/hide docs
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Flint, Tacy F. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Fogel, Lawrence P (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Haddad, Mark E. (California) show/hide docs
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Hartz, Alisa Louise (California) show/hide docs
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Hudson-Price, Anne M. (California) show/hide docs
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Kelley, Michael C. (California) show/hide docs
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Lassar, Scott R. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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McGehee, Cary S. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Miller, Bruce A. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Notton, Suzanne Brindise (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Phillips, Carter G (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Rosenbaum, Mark Dale (California) show/hide docs
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Wheeler, Jennifer M. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Katherine J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Harris, Toni L. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Haynes, Timothy J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Howd, Raymond O (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Ludwig, Jonathan S. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Smith, Joshua S (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Brewer, Mark C. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Burke, James E (Ohio) show/hide docs
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Clark, Dennis J (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Delaney, Bria (New York) show/hide docs
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Dell, Michael J. (New York) show/hide docs
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Flugman, David S (New York) show/hide docs
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Goldberg, Jerome F. (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Hollowell, Melvin B (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Klenow, Nicholas J (New York) show/hide docs
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Konanova, Lena (New York) show/hide docs
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Korobkin, Daniel S. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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McCargo, Samuel (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Metlitsky, Anton (New York) show/hide docs
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Miller, Julian D (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Mitchell, Jenice C (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Plochocki, Tara (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Savit, Eli (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Smith, Scott B (Alabama) show/hide docs
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Steinberg, Michael J (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Strom, David J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Stubblefield, Amanda B (Ohio) show/hide docs
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Underwood, Jessica (New York) show/hide docs
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Widick, Marshall J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
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Yoder, Bryce J (Ohio) show/hide docs
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