Case: City of Lowell v. Greater Lowell Technical High School

1:14-cv-12664 | U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

Filed Date: June 26, 2014

Closed Date: June 3, 2015

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This case is about the constitutionality of an electoral apportionment scheme for the election of members of a school committee. On June 26, 2014, the City of Lowell filed a complaint against the Greater Lowell Technical High School and the towns of Dracut, Tyngsborough, and Dunstable, alleging that an agreement between the parties regarding the election of candidates for the Greater Lowell Technical High School committee was unconstitutional under the Fourteen Amendment to the U.S. Constitutio…

This case is about the constitutionality of an electoral apportionment scheme for the election of members of a school committee.

On June 26, 2014, the City of Lowell filed a complaint against the Greater Lowell Technical High School and the towns of Dracut, Tyngsborough, and Dunstable, alleging that an agreement between the parties regarding the election of candidates for the Greater Lowell Technical High School committee was unconstitutional under the Fourteen Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution, and Massachusetts state law.

Chapter 94 of the 1967 Acts of Massachusetts authorized the municipalities to create a regional vocational school district.  The municipalities formed a regional vocational school on May 11, 1967 by executing an agreement as required by law.  The agreement provided the number of representatives each municipality was entitled to on the school committee.  Under the agreement, each municipality was entitled to at least one member of the school committee if its population was under 15,000 people and an additional member for each additional 15,000 residents, provided that Lowell was not entitled to any more members of the school committee than the total members to which the remaining municipalities were entitled.  At the time Lowell filed the complaint, about 80% of the school’s student body came from Lowell. However, based on the school committee apportionment scheme in the agreement, the school committee seats were apportioned as follows: one member each for both Tyngsborough and Dunstable, two members for Dracut, and four members for Lowell.  

On July 24, 2012, Lowell passed a motion requesting its city solicitor assess the constitutionality of the school committee apportionment scheme, and the solicitor opined that the scheme was unconstitutional.  The solicitor recommended that each of the municipalities adopt one of the five statutorily permitted apportionment schemes under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 71, Section 14E (Section 14E) to resolve the agreement’s constitutionality. The statute authorized regional school committees to be apportioned in one of five ways: (1) based on population; (2) by district-wide elections at biennial state elections; (3) through residency requirements in district-wide elections at biennial state elections; (4) by weighing the votes of committee members according to population; or (5) by allowing local elected officials to appoint the committee members.  

The following year, each municipality passed a motion to address the constitutionality of the agreement.  On August 13, 2013, Lowell passed a motion to adopt apportion by population, and on July 1, 2013, Tyngsborough did the same.  M.G.L. c. 71, Section 14E(3).  Dunstable passed a motion on August 19, 2013 to maintain the apportionment scheme but provide Dracut and Lowell each with one additional school committee member.  Dracut passed a motion on September 10, 2013, to allow local officials to appoint the committee members.  M.G.L. c. 71, Section 14E(5).  By June 2014, the municipalities failed to take any further action to establish a new electoral apportionment system.  

Lowell filed its June 26, 2014 complaint arguing that, because the agreement restricted Lowell’s representation to the total seats available to other member municipalities instead of based on its population, it violated the Fourteenth Amendment one-person, one-vote principle.  Because Lowell’s population was over three times the size of the other municipalities, it determined that the school committee electoral apportionment scheme resulted in a population deviation of 42% for Lowell and 125% in total for the municipalities.  Lowell argued that, because the apportionment scheme exceeded a 10% population deviation, it created a discriminatory mechanism favoring particular voting districts or geographic areas.

Lowell’s complaint also argued that the agreement violated Article VII of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution, which guaranteed the right of citizens to elect their representatives to terms of office.  Further, Lowell alleged that the apportionment scheme did not comport with the options under M.G.L. c. 71, Section 14E.  Lowell sought declaratory judgment from the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts prohibiting the use of the agreement’s apportionment scheme.  Lowell also sought an order that the parties amend the agreement to establish committee membership using residency requirements and district-wide elections under M.G.L. c. 71, Section 14E(3), as well as costs and attorneys’ fees.

The defendant municipalities each responded to Lowell’s complaint denying its allegations: Dracut and Tyngsborough on July 22, 2014, and Dunstable on September 4, 2014.  Dracut amended its answer on August 5, 2014, claiming Lowell had breached the apportionment agreement and sought its preferred apportionment scheme by local official appointment.  In Dunstable’s answer, it similarly counterclaimed that Lowell’s preferred change to the apportionment scheme might deprive smaller member municipalities of the protection originally envisioned in the agreement. 

On October 28, 2014, the judge held a scheduling conference at which the parties agreed to alternative dispute resolution before conducting any discovery.  A magistrate judge served as the mediator for the case and held two mediations.  On March 5, 2015, the mediator filed a report on the resolution process, noting that the municipalities had agreed in principle to settle the case by the end of March 2015 by filing a proposed consent decree with the judge.

On May 11, 2015, the municipalities presented a consent decree to the judge, who signed the decree on June 3, 2015.  The consent decree ordered that the agreement be revised to elect the members of the school committee by district-wide election at the biennial state elections and such candidates had to be residents of the member municipality to hold such municipality’s seat. M.G.L. c. 71, Section 14E(3).  The revisions also increased terms of the school committee members from three to four years.  Additionally, the municipalities inserted a provision requiring that vacancies for each Dunstable and Tyngsborough be filled in the same manner as appointment.  Lowell, on the other hand, was allowed to fill vacancies by appointment by the acting school committee members and city council acting jointly, and Dunstable was allowed to fill vacancies by appointment by the local school committee, its local governing body and the remaining member of the school committee.  The municipalities agreed to have their local governing bodies ratify the language in the consent decree at their next respective meetings.

The case is closed.

Summary Authors

(11/1/2023)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/13133704/parties/lowell-city-of-v-greater-lowell-technical-high-school/


Judge(s)
Attorney for Plaintiff

O'Connor, Christine P. (Massachusetts)

Attorney for Defendant

Gonzalez, Kelly Trainor (Massachusetts)

Larkin, Richard W. (Massachusetts)

Long, Michael J. (Massachusetts)

Expert/Monitor/Master/Other

Hall, James A. (Massachusetts)

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Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document
1

1:14-cv-12664

Plaintiff's Complaint

City of Lowell v. Greater Lowell Technical HIgh School, et al

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

Complaint
5

1:14-cv-12664

Answer to Complaint

City Of Lowell v. Greater Lowell Technical High School, et al

July 22, 2014

July 22, 2014

Complaint
11

1:14-cv-12664

Amended Answer of Defendant, Town of Dracut

City Of Lowell V. Greater Lowell Technical High School, et al

Aug. 5, 2014

Aug. 5, 2014

Pleading / Motion / Brief
13

1:14-cv-12664

Plaintiff/Defendant in Counterclaim, City of Lowell's Answer to Defendant, Town of Dracut's, Counterclaim

City Of Lowell V. Greater Lowell Technical High School, et al

Aug. 25, 2014

Aug. 25, 2014

Pleading / Motion / Brief
17

1:14-cv-12664

Answer of the Town of Dunstable

City of Lowell v. Greater Lowell Technical High School et al

Sept. 4, 2014

Sept. 4, 2014

Pleading / Motion / Brief
19

1:14-cv-12664

Plaintiff/Defendant in Counterclaim, City of Lowell's Answer to Defendant, Town of Dunstable's, Counterclaim

City of Lowell v. Greater Lowell Technical High School, et al

Sept. 24, 2014

Sept. 24, 2014

Pleading / Motion / Brief
40

1:14-cv-12664

Report of Alternative Dispute Resolution Provider

City Of Lowell v. Greater Lowell Technical High School, et al

March 6, 2015

March 6, 2015

Other
42

1:14-cv-12664

Consent Decree

City of Lowell v. Greater Lowell Technical High School, et al

June 3, 2015

June 3, 2015

Order/Opinion

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/13133704/lowell-city-of-v-greater-lowell-technical-high-school/

Last updated March 5, 2024, 3:07 a.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link Date / Link
1

COMPLAINT against All Defendants Filing fee: $ 400, receipt number 0101-5075981 (Fee Status: Filing Fee paid), filed by Lowell, City of. (Attachments: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet, # 2 Category Form, # 3 Exhibit 1, # 4 Exhibit 2, # 5 Exhibit 3, # 6 Exhibit 4, # 7 Exhibit 5, # 8 Exhibit 6, # 9 Exhibit 7, # 10 Exhibit 8)(O'Connor, Christine) (Entered: 06/26/2014)

1 Civil Cover Sheet

View on RECAP

2 Category Form

View on RECAP

3 Exhibit 1

View on RECAP

4 Exhibit 2

View on RECAP

5 Exhibit 3

View on RECAP

6 Exhibit 4

View on RECAP

7 Exhibit 5

View on RECAP

8 Exhibit 6

View on RECAP

9 Exhibit 7

View on RECAP

10 Exhibit 8

View on RECAP

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

Clearinghouse
2

ELECTRONIC NOTICE of Case Assignment. Judge Indira Talwani assigned to case. If the trial Judge issues an Order of Reference of any matter in this case to a Magistrate Judge, the matter will be transmitted to Magistrate Judge Judith G. Dein. (Abaid, Kimberly) (Entered: 06/26/2014)

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

PACER
3

Summons Issued as to All Defendants. Counsel receiving this notice electronically should download this summons, complete one for each defendant and serve it in accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 4 and LR 4.1. Summons will be mailed to plaintiff(s) not receiving notice electronically for completion of service. (Johnson, Jay) (Entered: 06/26/2014)

June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014

PACER
4

NOTICE of Appearance by Elliott J. Veloso on behalf of Lowell, City of (Veloso, Elliott) (Entered: 06/27/2014)

June 27, 2014

June 27, 2014

PACER
5

ANSWER to 1 Complaint, with Jury Demand, COUNTERCLAIM against All Parties by Dracut, Town of.(Hall, James) (Entered: 07/22/2014)

July 22, 2014

July 22, 2014

Clearinghouse
6

1 ANSWER to 1 Complaint, 5 Answer to Complaint, Counterclaim, ANSWER to Counterclaim by TYNGSBOROUGH, TOWN OF.(Zaroulis, Charles) (Entered: 07/22/2014)

July 22, 2014

July 22, 2014

RECAP
7

NOTICE of Appearance by Kelly Trainor Gonzalez on behalf of GREATER LOWELL TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL (Gonzalez, Kelly) (Entered: 07/24/2014)

July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014

PACER
8

Assented to MOTION for Extension of Time to August 29, 2014 to File Answer re 1 Complaint, by GREATER LOWELL TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL.(Gonzalez, Kelly) (Entered: 07/24/2014)

July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014

PACER
9

NOTICE of Appearance by Michael J. Long on behalf of GREATER LOWELL TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL (Long, Michael) (Entered: 07/24/2014)

July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014

PACER
10

Judge Indira Talwani: ELECTRONIC ORDER entered granting 8 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer re 1 Complaint, GREATER LOWELL TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL answer due 8/29/2014. (MacDonald, Gail) (Entered: 07/24/2014)

July 24, 2014

July 24, 2014

PACER
11

Amended ANSWER to Complaint with Jury Demand, COUNTERCLAIM against Lowell, City of by Dracut, Town of.(Weicker, Raymond) (Entered: 08/05/2014)

Aug. 5, 2014

Aug. 5, 2014

Clearinghouse
12

NOTICE of Appearance by Raymond T. Weicker, III on behalf of Dracut, Town of (Weicker, Raymond) (Entered: 08/05/2014)

Aug. 5, 2014

Aug. 5, 2014

PACER
13

Plaintiff/Deft in Counterclaim City of Lowell's ANSWER to Counterclaim of Deft Town of Dracut by Lowell, City of.(O'Connor, Christine) (Entered: 08/25/2014)

Aug. 25, 2014

Aug. 25, 2014

Clearinghouse
14

Assented to MOTION for Extension of Time to September 5, 2014 to File Answer re 1 Complaint, by City of Lowell.(Veloso, Elliott) (Main Document 14 replaced on 8/28/2014 because incorrect PDF document attached ) (Geraldino-Karasek, Clarilde). (Entered: 08/28/2014)

Aug. 28, 2014

Aug. 28, 2014

PACER
15

Judge Indira Talwani: ELECTRONIC ORDER entered granting 14 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer re 1 Complaint, DUNSTABLE, TOWN OF answer due 9/5/2014. (MacDonald, Gail) (Entered: 08/28/2014)

Aug. 28, 2014

Aug. 28, 2014

PACER
16

ANSWER to 1 Complaint, by Greater Lowell Techinical High School.(Gonzalez, Kelly) (Entered: 09/02/2014)

Sept. 2, 2014

Sept. 2, 2014

PACER
17

ANSWER to 1 Complaint, COUNTERCLAIM against All Plaintiffs by DUNSTABLE, TOWN OF. (MacDonald, Gail) (Entered: 09/04/2014)

Sept. 4, 2014

Sept. 4, 2014

Clearinghouse
18

NOTICE of Scheduling Conference Scheduling Conference set for 10/28/2014 03:00 PM in Courtroom 17 before Judge Indira Talwani. (MacDonald, Gail) (Entered: 09/12/2014)

Sept. 12, 2014

Sept. 12, 2014

PACER
19

City of Lowell's ANSWER to Counterclaim of Town of Dunstable by City of Lowell.(O'Connor, Christine) (Entered: 09/24/2014)

Sept. 24, 2014

Sept. 24, 2014

Clearinghouse
20

CERTIFICATION pursuant to Local Rule 16.1 . (Gonzalez, Kelly) (Entered: 10/21/2014)

Oct. 21, 2014

Oct. 21, 2014

PACER
21

Joint JOINT STATEMENT of counsel . (Zaroulis, Charles) (Entered: 10/21/2014)

Oct. 21, 2014

Oct. 21, 2014

PACER
22

CERTIFICATION pursuant to Local Rule 16.1 with certificate of service. (Hall, James) (Entered: 10/21/2014)

Oct. 21, 2014

Oct. 21, 2014

PACER
23

Document disclosure by Dracut, Town of.(Hall, James) (Entered: 10/21/2014)

Oct. 21, 2014

Oct. 21, 2014

PACER
24

CERTIFICATION pursuant to Local Rule 16.1 . (Veloso, Elliott) (Entered: 10/21/2014)

Oct. 21, 2014

Oct. 21, 2014

PACER
25

JOINT SUBMISSION pursuant to Local Rule 16.1 by City of Lowell.(Veloso, Elliott) (Entered: 10/21/2014)

Oct. 21, 2014

Oct. 21, 2014

PACER
26

NOTICE of Appearance by James A. Hall on behalf of Dracut, Town of (Hall, James) (Entered: 10/21/2014)

Oct. 21, 2014

Oct. 21, 2014

PACER
27

CERTIFICATION pursuant to Local Rule 16.1 (b) and (c). (Gonzalez, Kelly) (Entered: 10/21/2014)

Oct. 21, 2014

Oct. 21, 2014

PACER
30

ELECTRONIC Clerk's Notes for proceedings held before Judge Indira Talwani: Scheduling Conference held on 10/28/2014. Case called. Court has colloquy with counsel. All parties agree to ADR prior to any discovery. Case to be sent for ADR. If ADR not successful, a briefing schedule will be set. (Court Reporter: Cheryl Dahlstrom at cheryldahlstrom@comcast.net.)(Attorneys present: Veloso, Long, Gonzalez, Hall, Zaroulis, Larkin, Long) (MacDonald, Gail) (Entered: 11/07/2014)

Oct. 28, 2014

Oct. 28, 2014

PACER
28

REFERRING CASE to Alternative Dispute Resolution. (MacDonald, Gail) (Entered: 10/30/2014)

Oct. 30, 2014

Oct. 30, 2014

PACER
29

Notice of assignment to ADR Provider. Judge Kenneth P. Neiman appointed.(Garvin, Brendan) (Entered: 11/04/2014)

Nov. 4, 2014

Nov. 4, 2014

PACER
31

Notice of assignment to ADR Provider. Judge Jennifer C. Boal appointed.(Garvin, Brendan) (Entered: 12/15/2014)

Dec. 15, 2014

Dec. 15, 2014

PACER
32

ELECTRONIC NOTICE of Hearing. The Alternative Dispute Resolution Hearing is set for 1/29/2015 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 14 before Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal. Counsel and principals are directed to be present and have full settlement authority. Each party must submit a brief (no more than 5 pages) mediation memorandum that includes a discussion of (1) the merits of the case (both strengths and weaknesses); (2) damages or other relief sought by the parties; (3) the status of discovery; and (4) the status of the parties' settlement discussions. The memoranda should be submitted BY HAND, E-MAIL to (steve_york@mad.uscourts.gov), OR MAIL WITH THE COURT no later than five (5) business days prior to the mediation and marked "Confidential - Not for Docketing." In the event that any party believes that the case is not ripe for mediation, or the date poses a serious conflict, counsel are to notify opposing counsel and call the deputy clerk at 617-748-9238 as soon as possible. Prior to the mediation, there will be a Telephone Conference set for 1/23/2015 at 2:30 p.m. in Courtroom 14 before Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal. The clerk will provide the call in information to all parties by email, one day prior to the upcoming telephone conference. (York, Steve) (Entered: 12/15/2014)

Dec. 15, 2014

Dec. 15, 2014

PACER
33

ELECTRONIC Clerk's Notes for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal: Telephone Conference held on 1/23/2015. The Court reviewed preliminary matters with the parties prior to the upcoming mediation. (Court Reporter: SEALED Digital Recording - For transcripts or CDs the parties should first seek leave of the Court. If the request is granted, the parties should then contact Deborah Scalfani by email at (deborah_scalfani@mad.uscourts.gov.) (Attorneys present: O'Connor & Veloso for plaintiff; Long, Gonzalez, Weicker, Zaroulis, Larkin for defendants;) (York, Steve) (Entered: 01/23/2015)

Jan. 23, 2015

Jan. 23, 2015

PACER
35

REPORT of Alternative Dispute Resolution Provider: Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal reports this case did not settle but progress was made. A further session will be scheduled for either Wednesday February 18th or 25th unless the case is reported settled prior to that date. Counsel should contact the clerk, Steve York to confirm a new date. (York, Steve) (Entered: 01/29/2015)

Jan. 29, 2015

Jan. 29, 2015

PACER
36

ELECTRONIC NOTICE of Hearing. The Alternative Dispute Resolution Hearing has been continued for 2/25/2015 at 10:00 a.m. in Courtroom 14 before Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal. (York, Steve) (Entered: 02/13/2015)

Feb. 13, 2015

Feb. 13, 2015

PACER
38

REPORT of Alternative Dispute Resolution Provider: Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal reports that the parties have made progress towards settlement but questions remain regarding the implementation of any potential settlement. Counsel will meet and confer on these questions, and will report back to the Court at a telephone conference on March 5, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. (York, Steve) (Entered: 02/25/2015)

Feb. 25, 2015

Feb. 25, 2015

PACER
39

ELECTRONIC Clerk's Notes for proceedings held before Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal: Telephone Conference held on 3/5/2015. The Court held a settlement conference with the parties and review the status of the case. The Court reports that the parties have agreed in principle to settle the case. The parties intends to resolve this case by the end of March 2015. The parties will file a proposed Consent Decree for Judge Talwani to approve. (Court Reporter: SEALED Digital Recording - For transcripts or CDs the parties should first seek leave of the Court. If the request is granted, the parties should then contact Deborah Scalfani by email at deborah_scalfani@mad.uscourts.gov.) (Attorneys present: O'conner & Veloso for plaintiff; Gonzalez, Weicker, Zaroulis, Larkin for defendants;) (York, Steve) (Entered: 03/06/2015)

March 5, 2015

March 5, 2015

PACER
40

REPORT of Alternative Dispute Resolution Provider: Magistrate Judge Jennifer C. Boal reports that the parties have agreed in principle to settle the case. The parties intends to resolve this case by the end of March 2015. The parties will file a proposed Consent Decree for Judge Talwani to approve. (York, Steve) (Entered: 03/06/2015)

March 6, 2015

March 6, 2015

Clearinghouse
41

Proposed Document(s) submitted by City of Lowell.. (Veloso, Elliott) (Entered: 05/11/2015)

May 11, 2015

May 11, 2015

PACER
42

Judge Indira Talwani: CONSENT DECREE, ENTERED.(Flaherty, Elaine) (Entered: 06/03/2015)

June 3, 2015

June 3, 2015

RECAP

Case Details

State / Territory: Massachusetts

Case Type(s):

Election/Voting Rights

Special Collection(s):

Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA) project

Key Dates

Filing Date: June 26, 2014

Closing Date: June 3, 2015

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

City of Lowell, Massachusetts

Plaintiff Type(s):

City/County Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Mulicipality (Dracut, Middlesex), City

Municipality (Tyngsborough, Middlesex), City

Municipality (Tyngsborough, Middlesex), City

Municipality (Dunstable, Middlesex), City

School District (Lowell, Middlesex), School District

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Special Case Type(s):

Non-court arbitration/mediation

Available Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Mixed

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Attorneys fees

Declaratory Judgment

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Issues

Voting:

Vote dilution

Voting: General & Misc.