Missouri v. Jenkins
Decided on June 12, 1995

 A Missouri district court orders teacher salary increases to eradicate school segregation


A. Issues Discussed: Civil Rights (race), 14th Amendment

B. Legal Question Presented:

Did a Federal District Court’s desegregation order requiring salary increases for all school district employees and continued funding for remedial education programs go beyond the remedial authority of a federal court.


A. Background:

In 1977, the Kansas City, Missouri School District and a group of students in the district filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri claiming that the State of Missouri and suburban Kansas City school districts operated a segregated school system in the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. The District Court found that the system was segregated and issued a desegregation order.

In 1992, as part of an ongoing desegregation effort, the District Court ordered the State of Missouri to fund salary raises for all district staff and to continue to fund remedial quality education programs due to below average student achievement. Petitioner, the State of Missouri, filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Petitioner argued that ordering salary increases went beyond the authority of the District Court because such increases did not address the constitutional violation of the State’s operation of a segregated school system. However, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision and found that the salary increases were attempts to eradicate segregation by reversing "white flight" to the suburbs and improving the attractiveness of desegregation in the district. The State of Missouri sought review by a higher court and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to review the case.
B. Counsel of Record:
Opposing Side
Arthur A. Benson, II, argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief were James S. Liebman, Elaine R. Jones, and Theodore M. Shaw.
John R. Munich argued the cause for petitioners. With him on the brief were Jeremiah W. Nixon, Attorney General (Missouri), Michael J. Fields, and Bart A. Matanic, Assistant Attorneys General.
C. The Arguments:
Opposing Side
Unavailable Unavailable
Opposing Side
A brief of amici curiae urging affirmance was filed for the United States by Drew S. Days, III, Solicitor General, Deval L. Patrick, Assistant Attorney General, Paul Bender, Deputy Solicitor General, Irving L. Gornstein, Assistant to the Solicitor General, Dennis J. Dimsey, Mark L. Gross, Attorneys, Department of Justice.

Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by Christopher A. Hansen, Steven R. Shapiro, and Helen Hershkoff; for the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City by David F. Oliver; for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law by Jack W. Londen, Michael Cooper, and Thomas J. Henderson; and for James D. Anderson et al. by Kevin J. Hamilton.

William L. Taylor and Dianne M. Pich filed a brief urging affirmance for the National Urban League et al. as amici curiae.
A brief of amici curiae urging reversal was filed by Mark J. Bredemeier and Jerald L. Hill for Icelean Clark et al.

"Proper analysis of the District Court's orders challenged here must rest upon their serving as proper means to the end of restoring the victims of discriminatory conduct to the position they would have occupied in the absence of that conduct and their eventual restoration of 'state and local authorities to the control of a school system that is operating in compliance with the Constitution...'

The District Court's remedial plan in this case, however, is not designed solely to redistribute the students within the KCMSD [Kansas City, Missouri School District] in order to eliminate racially identifiable schools within the KCMSD. Instead, its purpose is to attract nonminority students from outside the KCMSD schools. But this interdistrict goal is beyond the scope of the intradistrict violation identified by the District Court. In effect, the District Court has devised a remedy to accomplish indirectly what it admittedly lacks the remedial authority to mandate directly: the interdistrict transfer of students...

Here, the District Court has done just that: created a magnet district of the KCMSD in order to serve the interdistrict goal of attracting nonminority students from the surrounding SSD's [surrounding suburban school districts] and redistributing them within the KCMSD. The District Court's pursuit of 'desegregative attractiveness' is beyond the scope of its broad remedial authority…
Similar considerations lead us to conclude that the District Court's order requiring the State to continue to fund the quality education programs because student achievement levels were still 'at or below national norms at many grade levels' cannot be sustained…

Although the District Court has determined that '[s]egregation has caused a system wide reduction in achievement in the schools of the KCMSD,' it never has identified the incremental effect that segregation has had on minority student achievement or the specific goals of the quality education programs…

On remand, the District Court must bear in mind that its end purpose is not only 'to remedy the violation' to the extent practicable, but also 'to restore state and local authorities to the control of a school system that is operating in compliance with the Constitution...'

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed."
Justice Vote: 4 Pro vs. 5 Con

  • Rehnquist, W.  Con (wrote majority opinion)
  • O’Connor, S.  Con (wrote concurring opinion)
  • Scalia, A.  Con (joined majority opinion)
  • Kennedy, A.  Con (joined majority opinion)
  • Thomas, C. Con (wrote concurring opinion)
  • Souter, D.  Pro (wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Stevens, J.  Pro (joined Souter's dissent)
  • Breyer, S. Pro (joined Souter’s dissent)
  • Ginsburg, R.  Pro (wrote dissenting opinion, joined Souter’s dissent)

The ACLU filed as amicus urging affirmance; the US Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the lower court in a 5-4 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent loss.