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Smith v. Board of Education of Palestine-Wheatley School District

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 2, 2014

A. D. Smith, et al., Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Board of Education of the Palestine-Wheatley School District, et al., Defendants - Appellees

Submitted January 16, 2014

Page 567

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock.

For A. D. Smith, Herman Privett, Lillie Burnette, L. V. Applewhite, Johnny Leon, James Leon, Velma Metcalf, Brenda Summers, Myrtle Jordan, Ethel Watson, Lynette Duncan, Donna Henard, Ruth Ward, Joann Thomas, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Terrence Cain, Little Rock, AR; John Winfred Walker Sr., John W. Walker, Little Rock, AR.

For Board of Education of the Palestine-Wheatley School District, Defendant - Appellee: George Jay Bequette Jr., Bequette & Billingsley, Little Rock, AR.

For Fred Johnson, Fred Cowan, Harold Gore, Ransom Smith, Ann Long, Greg Stewart, Donald Huckaby, Brent Howtan, Defendants - Appellees: Walter Paul Blume, Little Rock, AR; William Clay Brazil, Brazil & Adlong, Conway, AR.

For Terrie McGraw, Defendant - Appellee: Walter Paul Blume, Little Rock, AR.

For St. Francis County Board of Education, St. Francis Election Commission, John Clifton, Member of the St. Francis County Board of Education, Bill Jayroe, Member of the St. Francis County Board of Education, Thomas McDaniel, Member of the St. Francis County Board of Education, Fairy A. Owens, Member of the St. Francis County Board of Education, Linda A. Wies, Member of the St. Francis County Board of Education, Kersh Hall, Member of the St. Francis County Election Commission, Steve Hollowell, Member of the St. Francis County Election Commission, Defendants - Appellees: Walter Paul Blume, Little Rock, AR; Fletcher Long Jr., Forrest City, AR.

For Luther Lieblong, Member of the St. Francis County Election Commission, Defendant - Appellee: Walter Paul Blume, Little Rock, AR; William Clay Brazil, Brazil & Adlong, Conway, AR; Fletcher Long Jr., Forrest City, AR.

Before LOKEN, MURPHY, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 568

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

In 1987, the majority white Palestine school district and the majority African-American Wheatley school district, both located in St. Francis County, Arkansas, voluntarily consolidated into the Palestine-Wheatley School District (the " District" ), while continuing to operate elementary and secondary schools in both communities. In 1989, Wheatley schoolchildren, their parents, and other interested parties (the " Wheatley plaintiffs" ) sued the District, alleging on-going violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. In May 1990, the district court confirmed a settlement between the parties and approved a consent decree to enforce the settlement " in accordance with its terms." A central provision required that the District operate a single middle school located in the town of Wheatley.

In 2012, the District filed a motion to modify or terminate the decree, seeking an order permitting the District to relocate the middle school grades from the Wheatley campus to the Palestine campus. Primarily applying the standards for modifying a consent decree when changed circumstances have caused it to be unjust, see Rufo v. Inmates of the Suffolk County Jail,502 U.S. 367, 384-85, 112 S.Ct. 748, 116 L.Ed.2d 867 (1992), the district court[1] granted the motion. The Wheatley plaintiffs appeal, arguing the district court erred when it failed to apply the more rigorous test for termination of a desegregation decree set forth in Freeman v. Pitts, 503 U.S. 467, 490-91, 112 S.Ct. 1430, 118 L.Ed.2d 108 (1992). Reviewing what is the appropriate legal standard de novo, and the district court's ...


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