Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law & Partners Applaud Decision
To Address Segregation In Maryland’s Higher Education System
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the landmark higher education desegregation case The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education vs. Maryland Higher Education Commission, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake rejected the State of Maryland’s primary position that no remedy is required for its violation of the constitutional rights of students at the State’s four Historically Black Institutions (HBIs).
Maryland has failed to dismantle its practice of duplicating HBCU programs at traditionally white institutions, further perpetuating a cycle of segregation at the State’s four HBCUs. In her opinion issued late Wednesday, Judge Blake rejected Maryland’s proposed remedial plan to address this disparity, which did not provide for any new and unique programs at the HBCUs and did not include any federal oversight.
“The remedial order issued by the court is truly historic and places Maryland on a long overdue path to achieving racial desegregation and more equitable outcomes for students. Our historically Black colleges and universities play a critical role in the educational landscape of our country, and with proper support and funding from the state, they can attract racially diverse pools of students,” said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We must continue fighting to achieve the unfulfilled goals of Brown vs. Board of Education and the order issued in this case stands as a model for other states that have failed to live up to their obligation to desegregate.”
In her order, Judge Blake created a structure for a Remedial Plan that will be in place for 10 years. As the plaintiffs recommended, the Remedial Plan will be developed and monitored by a Special Master, who has appropriate experience in public higher education.
“In higher education, academic programs are magnets; they attract students; they attract funding; they bring prestige. The Court’s order essentially requires Maryland to do what it has been promising to do ever since before Brown vs. Board of Education, that is, to take concrete steps to remedy Maryland’s segregation era policy, which was, in its own words, to maintain the black school as ‘inferior in every aspect of their operation,’” said Michael D. Jones, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and the plaintiff’s lead counsel. “The most important area of inferiority was to deny the black schools exclusive, unique, well-funded programs. With this order, Judge Blake brings that era to a close.”
Key components of the Remedial Plan outlined in Judge Blake’s order include:
- The development of “new unique and/or high demand programs” at each HBCU that “build on the areas of strength at individual HBIs and take into account where physical building capacity is already in place.”
- In creating the plan “[t]he Special Master shall use the plaintiffs’ experts’ suggested programmatic niches as a starting point in determining new unique and/or high demand programs to establish at each HBI, particularly where the programmatic niches overlap with suggestions made by the HBIs in their remedial proposals.”
- “[A]nnual funding [for each HBI] in an amount to be recommended by the Special Master for marketing, student recruitment, financial aid, marketing, and related initiatives over the next five and ten years.”
- The requirement that any new program proposed by any university be reviewed by the Special Master to ensure that will not harm an HBI.
Co-lead counsel, Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, added: “In the more than 60 years since the Supreme Court found segregation was illegal, the leadership in Maryland has made decision after decision that has undermined the efforts of the HBIs. This Order will provide a promising path towards ending Maryland’s longstanding practices of fostering segregation through imbalanced programming and investment. It will positively impact students across Maryland by securing the promise of Brown of dismantling dual systems of education and the inequities that persist.”
David Burton, president of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education that brought the suit, said: “The Coalition is pleased that the Court has permanently prohibited the State of Maryland from maintaining its unconstitutional practice of unnecessary program duplication and that the Court maintains control over the development and implementation of a plan for achieving that end. We are especially pleased that the judge’s order requires the development of several new and unique high demand programs at each HBI and that those programs are to be funded by the state rather than the HBIs. That was one of our primary objectives in bringing this lawsuit.”
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.
About Kirkland & Ellis LLP:
Kirkland & Ellis LLP (www.kirkland.com) is a 1,900-attorney law firm representing global clients in litigation and dispute resolution/arbitration matters, private equity, M&A and other complex corporate transactions, restructuring, and intellectual property matters. The Firm has offices in Beijing, Chicago, Hong Kong, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Munich, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai and Washington, D.C., and recently announced it would open an office in Boston in June 2017.
Jessica Brady: [email protected]