University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name United States of America v. State of North Carolina EE-NC-0144
Docket / Court Civ. No. 4476 ( E.D.N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Special Collection Civil Rights Division Archival Collection
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
This case challenged North Carolina's use of a qualifying exam to certify teachers, alleging that the state's use of exam cut-off scores discriminated against Black and other minority candidates. On October 16, 1973, the United States, through the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, ... read more >
This case challenged North Carolina's use of a qualifying exam to certify teachers, alleging that the state's use of exam cut-off scores discriminated against Black and other minority candidates. On October 16, 1973, the United States, through the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, brought this pattern and practice lawsuit against the state of North Carolina in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The Justice Department alleged that the North Carolina General Assembly's establishment of testing cutoffs for the certification of school teachers violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection clause and asked the court to hold those requirements preempted. The North Carolina Association of Educators, as well as 24 individual Black teachers on behalf of a larger class of candidates, intervened to bring requests for monetary damages and attorneys fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

In 1964, the North Carolina Board of Education, for the first time, instituted a minimum score on the National Teacher Examination (NTE) for teachers to be certified in the state. However, the Board later retreated from that policy and incorporated other factors in the teacher certification process. The General Assembly responded in 1973 by reinstituting the minimum score requirements, over the objection of the state's Superintendent of Public Education. Statistics available to the Assembly at the time of this change showed that approximately 30% of Black candidates scored below the minimum, while only 1% of white candidates did so. Additionally, Educational Testing Service, the company that produced the NTE, opposed the use of the minimum scoring in this fashion.

On August 27, 1975, a three-judge district court, consisting of U.S. Circuit Judges Clement Haynsworth and James Braxton Craven, Jr., and U.S. District Judge Franklin Taylor Dupree, Jr. issued an opinion in plaintiffs' favor. 400 F. Supp. 343 "We hold that selection of a cut-off score that has not been shown to reveal teacher competency and that has a disparate impact on blacks ‘. . . is not reasonably related to any proper governmental objective,’ and constitutes a burdensome and arbitrary denial of equal protection under the fourteenth amendment." Id. at 349. The court granted the plaintiffs a declaratory judgment that the statute implementing the minimum score was unconstitutional and an injunction allowing class members to become licenses. It reserved the question of monetary remedies under the class member's 1983 claim. The court did not reach the Title VII liability issues.

However, on June 7, 1976, the Supreme Court decided Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229 (1975). That case allowed the Washington D.C. Police Department to employ a test for potential recruits which Black applicants did disproportionately worse on. The Supreme Court reasoned that there was no constitutional violation because the Department lacked discriminatory intent.

In light of Davis, the three-judge district court issued a new opinion on January 27, 1977, vacating its earlier opinion and judgment finding the state constitutionally liable. 425 F. Supp. 789. In this new opinion, the court stated that its "characterization of the actions taken was based on several unstated assumptions which, if not completely undermined by Washington, at least require reconsideration in light of that case." Id. at 792-93. In addition to vacating the judgment, it reopened discovery.

Unfortunately, this case predates electronic filing and the Clearinghouse has no information about later developments in the case.

However, given its age, the case is presumably closed.

Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 06/01/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
Discrimination-area
Hiring
Testing
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Impact
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Defendant(s) State of North Carolina
Plaintiff Description United States of America (DOJ Civil Rights); North Carolina Association of Educators; 24 individual Black teachers (on behalf of all other similarly situated teachers in North Carolina)
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Unknown
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief Unknown
Filed 10/16/1973
Case Ongoing No
Court Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
E.D.N.C.
03/19/1975
Proposed Findings of Fact and Legal Argument
EE-NC-0144-0001.pdf | Detail
E.D.N.C.
06/21/1975
Reply Brief for the United States
EE-NC-0144-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: Papers of Alexander (Sandy) Ross
E.D.N.C.
08/27/1975
Opinion (400 F.Supp. 343)
EE-NC-0144-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
E.D.N.C.
01/27/1977
Memorandum of Decision and Order (425 F.Supp. 789)
EE-NC-0144-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
show all people docs
Judges Craven, James Braxton Jr. (W.D.N.C., Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0003 | EE-NC-0144-0004
Dupree, Franklin Taylor Jr. (E.D.N.C.) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0003 | EE-NC-0144-0004
Haynsworth, Clement Furman Jr. (Fourth Circuit) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0003 | EE-NC-0144-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bell, Daniel L. II (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0002
Chambers, Julius LeVonne (New York) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0001
Pollak, Stephen J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0001
Rubin, David (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0001
Sharp, Richard M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0001
Stein, Adam (North Carolina) show/hide docs
EE-NC-0144-0001

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