United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
Marshall Jr. United States District Judge.
Poore and Key motions for summary judgment are partly granted
and mostly denied. The denial, though, is without prejudice.
There are some threshold issues. First, some of the students
have graduated or left the district. Poore and Key argue that
these students and their parents now lack standing, or that
their claims are moot. Plaintiffs have not opposed this
point. The Court therefore dismisses these particular
students and their parents without prejudice.[*] Second, the
three-year statute of limitations. It bars all parents'
claims accruing before December 2012. But the children's
claims are preserved by Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-116(a),
and, as Plaintiffs argue, at least some claims might be
sheltered as potential continuing violations. So, the
limitations point doesn't make much real difference. On
res judicata, the plaintiffs are right that this
Court's declaration that LRSD was unitary in several
material ways in 2002 doesn't bar claims about decisions
made and policies pursued since. LRSD's unitary status is
an important fact, but it doesn't stop this lawsuit.
Last, no argument is made that the 2014 global settlement in
case No. 4:82-cv-866 bars the current claims.
Poore and Key are entitled to summary judgment on the
discipline issues. Taking the record in the light most
favorable to the students and parents, there's
insufficient evidence to support a judgment that LRSD has a
racially motivated policy, custom, or practice of
disciplining black students more harshly or differently than
white students. The record shows isolated instances involving
a few teachers and perhaps principals, generalized feelings
of disparate treatment, and some bottom-line numbers from
across the district. No 146 at
35-36. All this is insufficient as a matter of law.
Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing
Development Corporation, 429 U.S. 252, 265 (1977).
Because many things influence student behavior, years ago
Brother Wilson rejected similar statistics when the Court
declared LRSD unitary in discipline. No 3675 at 164-66 in No. 4:82-cv-866. I
agree. And the rest of the plaintiffs' proof on this
issue is just too thin.
LRSD's motion is also granted on teacher-assignment
issues. Key suggests that where the teachers work is mostly a
function of the collective bargaining agreement. Maybe, but
the Court doesn't rule on this basis. Instead, Plaintiffs
simply haven't offered sufficient evidence to support a
judgment that LRSD assigns teachers based on a racially
discriminatory custom policy, or practice. The raw data about
the teacher numbers doesn't suffice. No 146 at 21-24. Neither do the remarks heard
by Dr. Dejarnette, which (as Poore and Key point out) were
made more than ten years and six superintendents ago. No LRSD
teacher or other person recently involved has testified that
assignments are influenced by the race of students or
teachers. Arlington Heights, 429 U.S. at 265.
core of Plaintiffs' remaining claim is about facilities
and other resources, such as school programs. Has LRSD
intentionally discriminated based on race through district
policy, custom, or practice in providing them?
No 166 at ¶ 9;
Plaintiffs' Trial Brief at 3-11, [**] No 163 at 3-4. And there's an embedded
issue about the attendance zone for Central High School.
Though Poore and Key make strong arguments about traceability
and on the merits, the Court concludes that it can make a
better judgment on the facilities/resources claim after
seeing and hearing the witnesses, plus considering all the
documents with the context that only live testimony, as well
as oral argument, will provide.
Plaintiffs' motion for more trial days is granted in part
and mostly denied. The Court now has the benefit of all the
parties' pretrial filings to help in evaluating how much
time is needed to fairly present the case. We don't need
the fifteen requested days. Two days of proof are in. If we
all proceed efficiently - with a steady focus on the key
facts about facilities and programs, especially in recent
years - this case can be well tried in about six more days.
The Court is confident that the experienced and able lawyers
on the docket can accomplish this. The Court allocates
plaintiffs twenty-five hours for direct and cross examination
of all witnesses. Defendants are entitled to the same, though
they appear, based on their witness lists, to require much
the trial architecture. The parties' good pretrial
briefing eliminates the need for extended openings. Instead,
the Court requests a daily ten-minute mini-opening from each
side: Sketch the ground you will cover with each witness that
day. Inform opposing counsel by noon each day who will be
called on the following day. Each side will have one hour for
a comprehensive closing argument. We'll start at 9:30
a.m. on Tuesday, July 18th, and 8:30 a.m. thereafter, unless
the Court orders otherwise. On this schedule, Plaintiffs
should be able to complete their case by the close of
business on Friday, July 21st. We'll probably spill over
into the following week for Defendants' case and
closings, and as needed for unforeseeable circumstances.
things moving at trial, the Court directs counsel (or their
representatives) to meet in person, review all proposed
exhibits, and agree on as many as possible, on a mutually
convenient date before July 18th. Please address Key's
objections, No 167, at this
meeting. Be prepared to inform the Court about agreed
exhibits when we start on July 18th. We'll handle any
disputed documents as the issue arises.
for summary judgment, No 126
& 129, partly granted and mostly denied without
prejudice. Motion to extend the length of trial,
No 158, partly granted and
are: Evelyn Fisher, Eshawn Fisher, Alvronia Robinson, Lyric
Louden, Lakesha Robinson Smith, and ...