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UNITED STATES v. CITY OF YONKERS

June 14, 1995

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, and YONKERS BRANCH, NAACP, et. al., Plaintiff-Intervenors, against CITY OF YONKERS, YONKERS COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT AGENCY, YONKERS BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants, and U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, SAMUEL PIERCE, SECRETARY, Added-Defendants, and THE STATE OF NEW YORK, MARIO CUOMO, as GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; THE BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; MARTIN C. BARELL, R. CARLOS CARBALLADA, ADELAIDE L. SANFORD, WILLARD A. GENRICH, EMLYN I. GRIFFITH, JORGE L. BATTISTA, LORA BRADLEY CHODOS, LOUISE P. MATTEONI, EDWARD MEYER, FLOYD S. LINTON, SALVADORE SCLAFINI, MIMI LEVIN LIEBER, SHIRLEY C. BROWN, NORMA GLUCK, THOMAS FREY and JAMES McCABE, SR., in their official capacities as members of the State Board of Regents; THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; THOMAS SOBOL, as COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; and THE URBAN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION of the STATE OF NEW YORK and VINCENT TESE, as Director of the Urban Development Corporation, Added-Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEONARD B. SAND

 SAND, J.

 In an Opinion dated March 27, 1995, this Court concluded that the State of New York, the State Board of Regents, and various other State education officials (collectively, "the State"), as well as the Urban Development Corporation, were not liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the conditions of unlawful de jure segregation that the Court had previously found to exist in the Yonkers Public School System. See United States v. Yonkers, 880 F. Supp. 212, 236 (S.D.N.Y. 1995). The Court declined to reach the merits of possible State liability under The Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq. ("EEOA"), a federal statute that had not been included in the original interpleader complaint against the State nor relied upon by plaintiffs as to any questions of substantive liability. See 880 F. Supp. at 238 & n.32, 241. The Court indicated, however, that it would revisit the EEOA issue upon any further application of the parties. Id. at 241.

 Presently before the Court is just such an application. The Yonkers Board of Education and the Yonkers Branch, NAACP (collectively, "plaintiffs") have moved for leave to amend their complaint to state a claim under the EEOA and for a ruling that the State is liable under the EEOA based on the findings made in the March Opinion. Plaintiffs also move the Court to "supplement" the March Opinion by addressing the merits of their claim of State liability under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. ("Title VI"). The State opposes the motion on the grounds that plaintiffs' requests for relief under the EEOA and Title VI are both procedurally barred and meritless.

 Having considered the arguments of the parties, as raised both in the motion papers and at oral argument, the Court concludes that plaintiffs are not entitled to prevail on either their EEOA claim or their Title VI claim. Our reasoning is set forth below. In addition, the Court directs the entry of a final judgment consistent with this Opinion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b), so that the parties may take an immediate appeal on the issue of State liability. *fn1"

 I. The EEOA

 A. The Procedural Propriety of Amending the Complaint

 The first question before us is whether to grant plaintiffs leave to amend their complaint to state a claim against the State under the EEOA. *fn2" The parties agree that post-trial requests to amend the pleadings are governed by the twin standards set forth in Hillburn v. Maher, 795 F.2d 252 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1046, 107 S. Ct. 910, 93 L. Ed. 2d 859 (1987): if the issue raised by a proposed amendment was tried with the express or implied consent of the parties, the amendment must be permitted; if there was no such consent, the amendment may be permitted if the party against whom it is offered would not be prejudiced by it, and the amendment should be granted in the absence of prejudice if "the interests of justice so require." 795 F.2d at 264. In this case, the question of prejudice concerns the fact that plaintiffs' EEOA claim rests on a theory of vicarious liability that the State claims it cannot now fairly defend against because it did not participate in the original liability proceedings against the City of Yonkers in 1983-84.

 Putting the question of consent-to-litigate to one side, we believe that plaintiffs satisfy the second of the Hillburn standards. The issue of prejudice was raised by the State prior to trial in early 1994 when plaintiffs served on the State a number of requests for admissions relating to the Court's November, 1985 Opinion on the liability of the City. See Added State and UDC Defendants' Responses to the Yonkers Board of Education's Second Requests for Admissions Relating to the Court's Opinion of Nov. 20, 1985 at 3-4. The Court concluded that concerns of due process did not preclude the requested admissions, and the admissions became part of the record to the extent that the State did not seek to refute them. See Order of the Court dated April 7, 1994. We see no reason to upset this resolution of the matter at this point in the litigation. We note, however, that if we did perceive prejudice in holding the State to the factual findings concerning the City's liability, we would consider whether to allow the State to reopen the record and contest any of the findings deemed admitted against it.

 As for the requirements of the "interests of justice," we think that the public interest in a thorough resolution on the merits of a claim is particularly compelling in civil rights litigation such as this. We accordingly grant plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint to state a claim under the EEOA.

 B. The Merits of the EEOA Claim

 Section 1703 of the EEOA provides in relevant part that:

 
No State shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, by (a) the deliberate segregation by an educational agency of students on the basis of race, color, or national origin among or within schools; (b) the failure of an educational agency which has formerly practiced such deliberate segregation to take affirmative steps . . . to remove the vestiges of a dual school system . . . .

 42 U.S.C. § 1703. For purposes of section 1703, an "educational agency" can be a local educational entity such as the Yonkers Board of Education. See 20 U.S.C. §§ 1720(a), 2891(12), 3381.

 The question before us is whether this provision of the EEOA provides a basis for holding a state vicariously liable for the discriminatory acts of local educational authorities. In the March Opinion, we perceived this question to resolve itself into a choice between following the literal and unambiguous language of section 1703, which seemed to impose on states the type of supervisory liability foreclosed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and looking beyond section 1703's language to the legislative history of the EEOA, which strongly suggested that Congress did not intend the statute to afford protections against racial discrimination beyond those already provided under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. *fn3"

 Further reflection on the matter in light of the subsequent briefing and oral argument by the parties has convinced us of several things. First, it does not appear that we are in fact faced with a clear-cut choice between the language of the statute and its legislative history. For one thing, the literal language of section 1703 is not as unambiguous as we initially thought. *fn4" For another, the internal incongruity of the EEOA's substantive provisions, while not creating ambiguity per se, raises serious doubts about what Congress intended to achieve by passing the EEOA. *fn5" We now believe that the plain language and structure of the EEOA prompt enough questions concerning Congress' purpose in enacting section 1703 as would justify recourse to the EEOA's legislative history. See Lewis v. Grinker, 965 F.2d 1206, 1215 (2d Cir. 1992) (noting that it is particularly appropriate to look beyond the literal meaning of statutory language when the statute "produces an ...


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