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Gautreaux v. Romney

September 10, 1971


Swygert, Chief Judge, Duffy, Senior Circuit Judge, and Fairchild, Circuit Judge.

Author: Duffy

DUFFY, Senior Circuit Judge.

This suit is brought against the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Plaintiffs are all Negro tenants or applicants for public housing in the City of Chicago. They seek, on behalf of themselves and all other Negroes similarly situated, a declaration that the Secretary has "assisted in the carrying on * * * of a racially discriminatory public housing system, within the City of Chicago, Illinois." Plaintiffs further seek to enjoin the Secretary from making available to the Chicago Housing Authority any federal financial assets to be used in connection with or in support of the racially discriminatory aspects of the Chicago public housing system. "Such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and equitable" is also requested.

Stated another way, the complaint herein challenges the role played by HUD*fn1 and its Secretary in the funding and construction of certain public housing in the City of Chicago. The role played by the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), which is not a party to this suit, in the construction of the same public housing already has been held to have been racially discriminatory (Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority, 296 F. Supp. 907 (N.D.Ill., 1969).*fn2 Further construction of public housing by CHA on a segregated site selection basis has been permanently enjoined. (304 F. Supp. 736). A good many of the facts pertaining to this present controversy are reported at 296 F. Supp. 907; 304 F. Supp. 736 and in this Court's decision at 436 F.2d 306 (7 Cir., 1970), cert. den. 402 U.S. 922, 91 S. Ct. 1378, 28 L. Ed. 2d 661 (1971). We shall avoid unnecessary repetition where possible.

The complaint in this case was filed simultaneously with the complaint in the Gautreaux v. CHA case, an order of the District Court stayed all proceedings in this suit until disposition of the companion CHA case. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint herein and filed certain affidavits and documents in support of said motion. On October 31, 1969, plaintiff moved for summary judgment under Rule 56 (F.R.Civ.P.) asserting that no dispute as to any material fact existed.

On September 1, 1970, the District Court entered its memorandum opinion dismissing all four counts of this complaint. Count I had been brought under the general federal question statute (28 U.S.C. § 1331) and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It alleged that the Secretary, through his action in funding and approving CHA's racially discriminatory programs, had violated the Due Process Clause of that amendment. The Court first found that plaintiffs had standing to bring suit under all counts and that the requisite jurisdictional amount was present. The Court then concluded that "the Fifth Amendment under the circumstances here alleged [did] not authorize this suit." This ruling was a holding that there was a lack of jurisdiction to bring Count I.

Jurisdiction as to Count II was grounded on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 28 U.S.C. § 1343(4). Count II alleged that the Secretary's acts had violated 42 U.S.C. § 2000d (Section 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). The District Court dismissed Count II for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.*fn3 The Court's dismissal was based upon the finding that HUD's financial assistance to CHA was insufficient to make it a "joint participant" in CHA's racially discriminatory conduct.

Counts III and IV were identical with Counts I and II respectively, except that deliberate discriminatory conduct on the part of CHA had not been alleged. The District Court dismissed these counts for failure to allege such deliberate CHA action.

Finally, the Court expressed the view that the doctrine of sovereign immunity was, in part, applicable to bar this suit.

This appeal followed. The Government has abandoned both the lack of jurisdiction as to Count I and sovereign immunity as possible grounds for affirmance. Plaintiffs have not strongly contested the dismissal of Counts III and IV of the complaint. Thus, the central question presented for review reduces to whether summary judgment in favor of either party is proper on Counts I or II of the complaint. The Government argues that the District Court's grant of summary judgment in its favor is proper and advances as an additional ground for affirmance the contention that the case is now moot.

The Government's position on appeal is that this present suit is somewhat superfluous inasmuch as full and complete equitable relief has been made available to these same plaintiffs through the Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority case. See: 296 F. Supp. 907; 304 F. Supp. 736. The Government is said to be in complete agreement with the "aims and objectives" of that case and that proposition is not strongly contested by the plaintiffs here.

We understand this contention by the Secretary to bear upon only two issues: mootness, and the scope of any equitable relief which might be deemed necessary by the District Court. The second issue, the extent of possible equitable relief is extremely important, but is not before this Court on this present appeal. We deal here only with whether summary judgment in favor of either party is proper on the issue of the Secretary's alleged liability for events which occurred in prior years. Liability for past conduct is totally separate from the question of appropriate future relief. In deciding the liability issue, it would thus not be appropriate for us to consider the effect which the decree entered in the companion case (304 F. Supp. 736) might have in minimizing the need for an extensive decree in this suit.

Similarly, a determination of just what type of equitable remedy might be appropriate in cases of this sort is a question best left initially to the sound discretion of the District Court. Brown v. Board of Education (Brown II), 349 U.S. 294, 75 S. Ct. 753, 99 L. Ed. 1083 (1955); Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 91 S. Ct. 1267, 28 L. Ed. 2d 554 (1971). Even though to the writer of this opinion it might appear that extensive relief would not be necessary, we do not, in any way, wish to anticipate the District Court on an issue properly for its decision.

Thus, the only issue presently before us which might be affected by the entry of the Gautreaux v. CHA injunction is mootness. We shall consider the effect of the prior injunction as it bears on that issue.

Before turning to the issues, however, this Court wishes to state its strong support for the actions of the District Judge throughout the course of this entire litigation. The District Judge who decided the Gautreaux v. CHA case and who has supervised the decree entered thereto, is the same District Judge who dismissed this present suit. The administration of the decree in the former case has unquestionably been a difficult and time-consuming task, presenting unique problems for resolution,*fn4 and generating enormous public interest. This Court would be extremely reluctant to interfere with the exercise of that District Judge's sound discretion in matters pertaining to this controversy, and no statement in this opinion should be so construed. Nevertheless, since important issues of law are presented by this appeal and since the basis of the District Court's dismissal of this present suit below seems to have been a feeling that ...

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