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Cheyney State College Faculty and E. Sonny Harris v. Hufstedler

decided: March 30, 1983.

CHEYNEY STATE COLLEGE FACULTY AND E. SONNY HARRIS AND ARTHUR M. BAGLEY AND ERNEST BERRY PLAINTIFFS I, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED AND WILL TATE AND DIANA TRACEY AND EUGENE JONES AND STACEY SHIELDS AND SYLVIA WHITE AND VERNON MONTAGUE, PLAINTIFFS V, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED AND LISA FORDHAM, AND DENNIS RUCKER, PLAINTIFF VI, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED AND CHRISTOPHER HAMMON AND NATHAN L. GADSON, PLAINTIFFS VII, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED AND JACQUELINE SHEPPARD, PLAINTIFFS II, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED AND HENRY C. DAILEY AND DORIAN G. JACKSON AND LEATRICE J. BENNET AND WILLIAM ROSENTHAL, PLAINTIFFS III, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED AND JEFFREY K. HART, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PRESIDENT OF THE STUDENT GOVERNMENT COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION, INC. ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFF IV AND CHARLES GAMBLE, ELISHA B. MORRIS AND CARLA ROBERTSON, PLAINTIFFS VIII, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED AND EDWARD SMITH, PLAINTIFF IX, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED AND DENISE SCRUGGS, PLAINTIFF X, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, APPELLANTS,
v.
SHIRLEY HUFSTEDLER, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEWEY DODDS, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT I, ROBERT G. SCANLON, SECRETARY, PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUC., CLAYTON L. SOMMERS, COMMISSIONER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, DEFENDANT II, BOARD OF STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITY DIRECTORS, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEFENDANT III, BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF CHEYNEY STATE COLLEGE, DEFENDANT IV, WADE WILSON, PRESIDENT, CHEYNEY STATE COLLEGE, DEFENDANT V, APPELLEES



APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Weis, Sloviter and Becker, Circuit Judges.

Author: Weis

Opinion OF THE COURT

WEIS, Circuit Judge.

The record in this case leads us to conclude that a stay order issued by the district court did not effectively terminate the litigation and hence is not appealable. Treating the matter as a petition for mandamus, we hold that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in delaying the suit pending the potential resolution of some important issues in ongoing administrative proceedings. Although the court relied on the doctrines of primary jurisdiction and exhaustion of administrative remedies, which we find inapplicable here, the stay was nevertheless a reasonable exercise of the court's power to control its docket. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

This suit was brought as a class action in 1980 by faculty, alumni, students, and prospective students of Cheyney State College, alleging violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d et seq., as well as 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. Plaintiffs originally named the Secretary of the United States Department of Education and the Regional Director of its Office for Civil Rights as defendants, but agreed to dismiss them when they renewed enforcement efforts against the other parties. The district judge then concluded that the administrative proceedings in the U.S. Department of Education might obviate at least part of the controversy and stayed further judicial proceedings.

Plaintiffs contend that Pennsylvania operates a de jure segregated system of higher education. As a result, they allege, the faculty and student body of Cheyney are largely black; its library, facilities, course offerings, and budget are not on a par with other state-owned schools; and its teaching staff was singled out for layoffs.

The amended complaint requests declaratory and injunctive orders against officials of the U.S. Department of Education and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania Board of State Colleges and University Directors, the Board of Trustees of Cheyney State College, and the school president. Plaintiffs sought relief that declares the Commonwealth System of Higher Education functions on a dual and segregated basis by race; directs the U.S. Department of Education to undertake enforcement proceedings pursuant to Title VI; requires the Pennsylvania Department of Education to develop and implement a constitutional plan assuring equal opportunity in higher education; enjoins the Department from violating federal desegregation guidelines; and prohibits Cheyney from terminating the employment of faculty members.

In 1969, eleven years before this suit was filed, the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare determined that Pennsylvania was one of ten states operating a racially segregated system of higher education in violation of Title VI.*fn1 Pennsylvania soon submitted a plan for desegregating its schools, but the agency found it unacceptable.

In 1973, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered HEW to commence enforcement proceedings against the states that were not in compliance with Title VI. Adams v. Richardson, 356 F. Supp. 92, 94 (D.D.C.), aff'd as modified, 156 U.S. App. D.C. 267, 480 F.2d 1159, 1165 (D.C. Cir. 1973) (ordering HEW to direct the states to submit desegregation plans, and granting an additional period of time before the agency must initiate compliance proceedings against those states whose plans are unacceptable). The agency accepted a revised plan submitted by Pennsylvania in 1974, and the state then intervened in the Adams litigation to defend the adequacy of its proposal. In 1977, the court directed HEW to notify six states that their plans were inadequate. The court made no findings with respect to Pennsylvania and exempted it from the order, pending settlement negotiations then in progress. Adams v. Califano, 430 F. Supp. 118, 120 (D.D.C. 1977).

In 1981, after the suit at hand was filed, the U.S. Department of Education, successor to HEW, notified Pennsylvania that the 1974 plan was inadequate. The state was ordered to submit a new proposal. Plaintiffs then dismissed the federal defendants from this suit because the relief sought from them had been obtained, and petitioned to intervene in the Adams litigation.

The remaining defendants urged the district court to either dismiss the complaint or abstain. The court concluded that plaintiffs were required to exhaust administrative remedies under Title VI, and that the U.S. Department of Education had primary jurisdiction. The court stayed the suit until further order and directed defendants to report within 90 days on the progress of the administrative proceedings.

Plaintiffs appeal from the stay order, asserting jurisdiction under 28 ...


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