Missouri State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People et al v. Ferguson-Florissant School District et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER...IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion to lift the stay in this matter, [No. 269 ], is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a status hearing will be held in this matter on Monday, November 26, 2018, at 10:30 am in Courtr oom 16-South. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiffs will file with the Court a tentative voter education plan no later than November 21, 2018. ( Status Conference set for 11/26/2018 10:30 AM in Courtroom 16S before District Judge Rodney W. Sippel.). Signed by District Judge Rodney W. Sippel on 10/11/2018. (NEP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MISSOURI STATE CONFERENCE
OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF
COLORED PEOPLE, et al.,
SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al.,
Case No. 4:14 CV 2077 RWS
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiffs move to lift the stay I ordered in this Voting Rights Act case. Because the
relevant factors no longer favor a stay, I will grant Plaintiffs’ motion to lift the stay.
Plaintiff residents in the Ferguson-Florissant School District (the “District”) brought this
Voting Rights Act case to challenge an at-large school board election system. After a bench trial,
I found that Defendants violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by conducting an at-large
voting system that disfavored the election of African American residents’ preferred candidates.
[No. 185]. Specifically, I found that—although 48.19% of the voting age population in the
District identified as any-part Black, and 48.95% of the voting age population in the District
identified as non-Hispanic single-race white according to the 2010 Decennial Census—white
preferred candidates (88.9% success rate) were more than twice as likely to be elected than
African American-preferred candidates (48.1% success rate) from 2000 through 2015. I also
found that African American voters in the district were “large and geographically compact” and
“politically cohesive,” and that the white majority voted “sufficiently as a bloc . . . to defeat the
minority’s preferred candidate.” Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 106 (1986). Considering a
totality of the circumstances, I found that the political process was not equally open to minority
To remedy this Section 2 violation, I ordered Defendants to implement a cumulative
voting system and a voter education program. [No. 212]. On December 21, 2016, I suspended
this injunctive relief pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 62(c), pending resolution of the
Defendants’ appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. [No. 242]. On
July 3, 2018, the Eighth Circuit affirmed my ruling. The Eighth Circuit also denied Defendants’
petitions for a rehearing by the panel and for a rehearing en banc. [No. 265].
Plaintiffs now move to lift the stay. [No. 269]. They argue that the conditions favoring
the stay no longer exist, because Defendants’ have exhausted their options for appeal within the
Eighth Circuit. Defendant District argues that lifting the stay will create uncertainty because it
plans to file a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. On September 27, 2018, I
held a motion hearing on plaintiffs’ motion to lift the stay, which is now fully briefed.
I have discretion to “suspend, modify, restore, or grant an injunction” pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 62(c). In addressing the propriety of imposing or lifting such a stay, I
should consider (1) the likelihood of the movant’s success on the merits, (2) whether irreparable
injury will result to the movant absent a stay, (3) whether substantial injury results to other
parties if a stay is issued, and (4) the public interest. Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 433–34
(2009). When a petition for writ of certiorari is pending, a proponent of a stay must persuade me
that (1) there is “a balance of hardships in their favor” and (2) four Justices “would likely vote to
grant a writ of certiorari.” New York Times Co. v. Jascalevich, 439 U.S. 1304, 1304 (1978)
(Marshall, J., in chambers). The party requesting a stay bears the burden of establishing the
propriety of a stay. Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. at 433-34.
The District argues that the factors favoring a stay on December 21, 2016, apply to the
current circumstance as well. Specifically, when imposing this stay, I emphasized the uncertainty
that would be created if the District implemented a new voting system while the Eighth Circuit
reviewed that requested relief. Such a situation was not in the public interest and the resulting
uncertainty could harm the District, candidates, and voters.
The circumstances have changed. In December 2016, the District enjoyed the right to
appeal and argue their case before a United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Since
that time, the Eighth Circuit has affirmed my rulings in this case, and has declined to rehear this
matter. Further, the United States Supreme Court exercises discretionary review and only grants
petitions for writs of certiorari in limited circumstances “for compelling reasons.” U.S. Sup. Ct.
R. 10. In this context, Defendant District has not met its burden to establish a likelihood that the
United States Supreme Court would grant certiorari. See New York Times Co. v. Jascalevich,
439 U.S. at 1304.
Additionally, Plaintiffs convincingly argue that the factors articulated in Nken favor
lifting the stay. First, the continuation of this stay will harm plaintiffs by retaining an election
system that I found violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. See, e.g., Michigan State
A. Philip Randolph Inst. v. Johnson, 833 F.3d 656, 669 (6th Cir. 2016), stay denied, 137 S. Ct.
28 (2016). Second, “[t]he public has a strong interest in exercising the fundamental political right
to vote,” Obama for Am. v. Husted, 697 F.3d 423, 436 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Purcell v.
Gonzalez, 549 U.S. 1, 4, (2006)), and as a result, the public interest favors lifting the stay.
Furthermore, plaintiffs have already succeeded on the merits, and that ruling has been affirmed.
As a result, I will lift the stay in this matter, noting that defendants may still pursue an
emergency stay under United States Supreme Court Rule 23.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs’ motion to lift the stay in this matter,
[No. 269], is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a status hearing will be held in this matter on
Monday, November 26, 2018, at 10:30 am in Courtroom 16-South.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiffs’ will file with the Court a tentative
voter education plan no later than November 21, 2018.
RODNEY W. SIPPEL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 11th day of October, 2018.
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