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GRIFFIN V. SCHOOL BOARD, 377 U. S. 218 (1964)

U.S. Supreme Court

Griffin v. School Board, 377 U.S. 218 (1964)

Griffin v. School Board of Prince Edward County

No. 592

Argued March 30, 1964

Decided May 25, 1964

377 U.S. 218


This litigation began in 1951 and resulted in this Court's holding in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954), that Virginia school segregation laws denied the equal protection of the laws and, after reargument on the question of relief, the remand to the District Court a year later for entry of an order that the Negro complainants in Prince Edward County be admitted to public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis "with all deliberate speed." Faced with an order to desegregate, the County Board of Supervisors in 1959 refused to appropriate funds for the operation of public schools, although a private foundation operated schools for white children only, who in 1960 became eligible for county and state tuition grants. Public schools continued to operate elsewhere in Virginia. After protracted litigation in the federal and state courts, the District Court, in 1961, enjoined the County from paying tuition grants or giving tax credits as long as the public schools remained closed, and thereafter, refusing to abstain pending proceedings in the state courts, held that the public schools could not remain closed to avoid this Court's decision while other public schools in the State remained open. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the District Court should have awaited state court determination of these issues.


1. Though the amended supplemental complaint added new parties and relied on developments occurring after the action had begun, it did not present a new cause of action, but constituted a proper amendment under Rule 15(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, since the new transactions were alleged to be part of persistent and continuing efforts to circumvent this Court's holdings. Pp. 377 U. S. 226-227.

2. Since the supplemental complaint alleged a discriminatory system unique to one county, although involving some actions of the State, adjudication by a three-judge court was not required under 28 U.S.C. § 2281. Pp. 377 U. S. 227-228.

Page 377 U. S. 219

3. This action is not forbidden by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution, since it charges that state and county officials deprived petitioners of their constitutional rights. Ex parte Young, 209 U. S. 123 (1908), followed. P. 377 U. S. 228.

4. Because of the long delay resulting from state and county resistance to enforcing the constitutional rights here involved, and because the highest state court has now passed on all the state law issues here, federal court abstention pending state judicial resolution of the legality of respondents' conduct under the constitution and laws of Virginia is not required or appropriate in this case. Pp. 377 U. S. 228-229.

5. Under the circumstances of this case, closing of the Prince Edward County public schools while at the same time giving tuition grants and tax concessions to assist white children in private segregated school denied petitioners the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 377 U. S. 229-232.

(a) Prince Edward County school children are treated differently from those of other counties, since they must go to private schools or none at all. P. 377 U. S. 230.

(b) The public schools of Prince Edward County were closed, and the private schools operated in their place only for constitutionally impermissible reasons of race. Pp. 377 U. S. 231-232.

6. Quick and effective injunctive relief should be granted against the respondents, all of whom have duties relating to financing, supervising, or operating the Prince Edward County schools. Pp. 377 U. S. 232-234.

(a) The injunction against county officials' paying tuition grants and giving tax credits while public schools remained closed is appropriate and necessary where the grants and credits have been part of the county program to deprive petitioners of a public education enjoyed by children in other counties. P. 377 U. S. 233.

(b) The District Court may require the County Supervisors to levy taxes to raise funds for the nonracial operation of the county school system, as is the case with other counties. P. 377 U. S. 233.

(c) The District Court may, if necessary, issue an order to carry out its ruling that the Prince Edward County public schools may not be closed to avoid the law of the land while the State permits other public schools to remain open at the expense of the taxpayers. Pp. 377 U. S. 233-234.

(d) New parties may be added if necessary to effectuate the District Court's decree. P. 377 U. S. 234.

322 F.2d 332, reversed.

Page 377 U. S. 220

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