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Northcross v. Memphis Board of Education

U.S.
Jun 4, 1973
412 U.S. 427 (1973)

Summary

holding that the "strong indication that the two statutes should be interpreted pari passu" because of a similarity in language was reinforced by the fact that "the two provisions share a common raison d'être" (quoting Johnson v. Combs, 471 F.2d 84, 86 (5th Cir.1972))

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Novak

Opinion

ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

No. 72-1164.

Decided June 4, 1973

Since the Court of Appeals' denial of costs and attorneys' fees under § 718 of the Emergency School Aid Act of 1972 to petitioners, who were successful in litigation aimed at desegregating the public schools of Memphis, Tenn., was without stated reasons, this Court cannot determine whether the proper standard, Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., 390 U.S. 400, was correctly applied.

Certiorari granted; vacated and remanded.


This case presents the question of the propriety, under § 718 of the Emergency School Aid Act of 1972, 86 Stat. 369, 20 U.S.C. § 1617, of a denial of attorneys' fees to the successful plaintiffs in this litigation aimed at desegregating the public schools of Memphis, Tennessee. Section 718, which became effective on July 1, 1972, provides that "[u]pon the entry of a final order by a court of the United States against a local educational agency, a State (or any agency thereof), or the United States (or any agency thereof)," in any action seeking to redress illegal or unconstitutional discrimination with respect to "elementary and secondary education, the court, in its discretion, upon a finding that the proceedings were necessary to bring about compliance, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs." In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied petitioners' motion for an award of attorneys' fees. The Court of Appeals did not, however, state reasons for the denial and it is therefore not possible for this Court to determine whether the Court of Appeals applied the proper standard in reaching this result.

Respondents suggest that petitioners' motion for costs and attorneys' fees might have been denied due to untimeliness. Although it is clear that the petitions for rehearing en banc were denied as untimely, there is no indication that the bill of costs was filed out of time, or that costs and attorneys' fees were denied for that reason.

Section 718 tracks the wording of § 204(b) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 244, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a-3 (b), which provides that, in an action seeking to enforce Title II of that Act, "the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs . . . ." In Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., 390 U.S. 400 (1968), we held that, under § 204(b), "one who succeeds in obtaining an injunction under that Title should ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust." Id., at 402. The similarity of language in § 718 and § 204(b) is, of course, a strong indication that the two statutes should be interpreted pari passu. Moreover, "the two provisions share a common raison d'etre. The plaintiffs in school cases are `private attorneys general' vindicating national policy in the same sense as are plaintiffs in Title II actions. The enactment of both provisions was for the same purpose — `to encourage individuals injured by racial discrimination to seek judicial relief . . . .'" Johnson v. Combs, 471 F.2d 84, 86 (CA5 1972), quoting Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc., supra, at 402. We therefore conclude that, as with § 204(b), if other requirements of § 718 are satisfied, the successful plaintiff "should ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust." 390 U.S., at 402. Since it is impossible for us to determine whether the Court of Appeals applied this standard and, if so, whether it did so correctly, we grant the petition for certiorari, vacate the judgment below insofar as it relates to the denial of attorneys' fees, and remand to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. See Taylor v. McKeithen, 407 U.S. 191 (1972); cf. California v. Krivda, 409 U.S. 33 (1972).

We need not, and therefore do not, decide whether § 718 authorizes an award of attorneys' fees insofar as those expenses were incurred prior to the date that that section came into effect. We also do not decide whether, and under what circumstances, an award of attorneys' fees is permissible in suits brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the absence of specific statutory authorization for such an award. See Knight v. Auciello, 453 F.2d 852 (CA1 1972); Lee v. Southern Home Sites Corp., 444 F.2d 143 (CA5 1971).

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.


Summaries of

Northcross v. Memphis Board of Education

U.S.
Jun 4, 1973
412 U.S. 427 (1973)

holding that the "strong indication that the two statutes should be interpreted pari passu" because of a similarity in language was reinforced by the fact that "the two provisions share a common raison d'être" (quoting Johnson v. Combs, 471 F.2d 84, 86 (5th Cir.1972))

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Novak

holding that two fee-shifting statutes should be interpreted consistently where they had similar language and "a common raison d'etre"

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Hynes

applying the Newman standard to § 718 of the Emergency School Aid Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1617

Summary of this case from Flight Attendants v. Zipes

In Northcross v. Memphis Bd. of Ed., 412 U.S. 427 (1973), we held that similar attorney's fee provisions should be interpreted pari passu, and read the "prevailing party" standard in 20 U.S.C. § 1617 as identical to that in 42 U.S.C. § 2000a-3(b).

Summary of this case from Ruckelshaus v. Sierra Club

In Northcross v. Board of Education of the Memphis City Schools, 412 U.S. 427, 428 (1973), we held that under § 718 "the successful plaintiff `should ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust.'"

Summary of this case from Bradley v. Richmond School Board

In Northcross we construed, as in pari passu, § 718 and § 204(b) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a-3 (b), providing for an award of counsel fees to a successful plaintiff under the public accommodation subchapter of that Act.

Summary of this case from Bradley v. Richmond School Board

providing that it is appropriate to interpret the language of two separate statutes pari passu where two statutes use similar language and were enacted for the same purpose

Summary of this case from California v. Azar

stating that when two provisions of different statutes share similar language, that is a "strong indication" they are to be interpreted consistently

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stating that “[t]he similarity of language” in two statutory provisions sharing “a common raison d'etre” constitutes “a strong indication that the two statutes should be interpreted pari passu”

Summary of this case from United States v. Voisine

noting that “similarity of language” in two different statutes was “strong indication that the two statutes should be interpreted” the same

Summary of this case from United States v. Bruguier

noting that the “similarity of language” in two statutes is an indicator that the statutes “should be interpreted pari passu,” particularly when they “share a common raison d'etre”

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noting that the “similarity of language” in two statutes is an indicator that the statutes “should be interpreted pari passu,” particularly when they “share a common raison d'etre”

Summary of this case from UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners LLC

stating that the similarity of language in provisions of two different statutes "is, of course, a strong indication that the two statutes should be interpreted pari passu"

Summary of this case from Wasser v. New York State Off. of Vocational

noting that "[t]he similarity of language" in two fee-shifting statutes "is, of course, a strong indication that the two statutes should be interpreted pari passu"

Summary of this case from Kenny A. v. Perdue

stating that similar language in different statutes is a "strong indication" that the statutes are to be interpreted similarly

Summary of this case from Ford v. Long Beach Unified School Dist

construing attorney's fees provisions in civil rights ' statutes to be justified where plaintiffs injured by discrimination are successful in obtaining injunctive relief

Summary of this case from Reiter v. MTA N.Y.C. Transit Auth.

noting that "similarity of language . . . is, of course, a strong indication that . . . two statutes should be interpreted pari passu," particularly where "the two provisions share a common raison d'etre"

Summary of this case from Schnall v. Amboy Nat. Bank

noting that a similarity of language and a "common raison d'etre" indicate that two statutes should be interpreted in the same way

Summary of this case from In re Westberry

applying Piggie Park standard to § 718 of the Emergency School Aid Act

Summary of this case from Dorn's Transp. v. Teamsters Pension Trust Fund

In Northcross v. Memphis Board of Education, 412 U.S. 427, 428, 93 S.Ct. 2201, 2202, 37 L.Ed.2d 48 (1973), the Supreme Court held that similarity of language was a "strong indication" that two attorneys' fee statutes "should be interpreted pari passu.

Summary of this case from Roosevelt Campobello Intern. Park v. U.S.E.P.A

applying same standard under § 718 of Emergency School Aid Act of 1972

Summary of this case from Chicano Police Officer's Ass'n v. Stover

In Northcross v. Board of Education, 412 U.S. 427, 93 S.Ct. 2201, 37 L.Ed.2d 48 (1973), the Court held that this standard should be applied to requests for fees made pursuant to § 718 of the Emergency School Aid Act of 1972, noting that the "plaintiffs in school cases are `private attorneys general' vindicating national policy in the same sense as are plaintiffs in Title II actions."

Summary of this case from Zarcone v. Perry

construing similar provision in the Emergency School Aid Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. § 1617 (Supp. V 1975)

Summary of this case from Parker v. Califano

In North-cross v. Memphis Board of Education, 412 U.S. 427, 93 S.Ct. 2201, 37 L.Ed.2d 48 (1973), the Court expressly declined to consider whether and under what circumstances an award of attorneys' fees might be permissible in § 1983 litigation.

Summary of this case from Goode v. Rizzo

In Northcross v. Board of Education, 412 U.S. 427, 428, 93 S.Ct. 2201, 2202, 37 L.Ed.2d 48 (1973), the Supreme Court held that under section 718 of Title VII of the Emergency School Aid Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1617, "the successful plaintiff [in a school desegregation case] `should ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust.'"

Summary of this case from U.S. v. Bd. of Sch. Com'rs, Indianapolis
Case details for

Northcross v. Memphis Board of Education

Case Details

Full title:NORTHCROSS ET AL. v . BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE MEMPHIS CITY SCHOOLS ET AL

Court:U.S.

Date published: Jun 4, 1973

Citations

412 U.S. 427 (1973)
93 S. Ct. 2201

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