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Knight v. State of Alabama (in U.S. Supreme Court)

James Blacksher, Susan Watterson, and I have just filed a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court in Knight v. State of Alabama.

Knight is the higher-education desegregation case that Jim has worked on for nearly twenty years. Several years ago, he amended the complaint to raise issues regarding the education funding system in Alabama. Here is the way we describe the case in the petition:

After 1995 Alabama, like the rest of the nation, experienced sharp increases in the cost of attending public universities, and in 2003 the class plaintiffs sought additional relief, contending that racially motivated restrictions in the state constitution were contributing to rising tuition and declining financial aid that adversely affected access to higher education for black Alabamians. App. 29-33. The state constitutional provisions in question are sections of the original Alabama Constitution of 1901, which cap property tax millage rates, and two “Lid Bill” constitutional amendments procured by Governor George C. Wallace in the 1970s that drastically reduce the percentage of fair market value to which the millage rates can be applied, restrict the valuation of farm and timber land to their current use, and place a “lid” on total ad valorem taxes. ...

The District Court then found that these state constitutional provisions [were passed with a racially discriminatory intent and] still have their intended racially discriminatory effects, keeping Alabama’s property taxes far below those of all other states, starving predominately black school systems of local revenues, and depleting higher education’s portion of the state sales and income taxes that must be shared with K-12 schools.

However, the District Court refused to grant the plaintiffs the relief they sought because, the court said,

the State had satisfied its burden under the second part of the Fordice standard of showing that the challenged tax provisions have no segregative effect on students’ choice to attend higher education.

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. And now we (I joined to help on the certiorari petition) have filed the petition for a writ of certiorari raising these questions:

1. Where both lower courts found provisions in Alabama’s constitution to be racially discriminatory in both their original purpose and in their current effects, did the courts err by denying all relief and upholding these racially discriminatory provisions?

2. Is the decision below contrary to the holding of this Court in United States v. Fordice, 505 U.S. 717 (1992), that a state must eradicate vestiges of de jure racial segregation from its system of higher education?

3. Is the decision below contrary to the holding of this Court in Hunter v. Underwood, 471 U.S. 222 (1985), that provisions in a state’s constitution that continue to have their intended racially discriminatory effects must be struck down as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment?

This entry was posted by Edward at 8:37 PM, 26 April 2007 | Categories: Constitutional law

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