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BURNER v. WASHINGTON

July 15, 1975

MARY BURNER, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
WALTER E. WASHINGTON, ET AL., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GASCH

 Plaintiffs herein allege that various municipal services in the District of Columbia were provided in a discriminatory manner in violation of Fifth Amendment equal protection and due process *fn1" and in violation of certain statutory and common law rights. *fn2" The complaint named as defendants various Federal and local officials, the District of Columbia, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the United States. There is no need to review here the procedural history of the case. *fn3" The matter is now before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment filed on behalf of plaintiffs and of all District of Columbia defendants. At issue is whether the District of Columbia ("District") has discriminated in the provision of municipal services in five general categories. These areas are: police services, fire services, recreation services, trash removal services and provision for sidewalks. In general, plaintiffs assert that residents of the Anacostia area of the city receive less services in these categories than do persons living in that area of the District which is west of Rock Creek Park. *fn4"

 I. Legal Framework.

 We start with the principle that invidious racial discrimination may be shown either by proof of discriminatory intent or of discriminatory effect. *fn5" Such an improper effect exists where it is shown that the action in question promotes or encourages discrimination. *fn6" Such effect also exists where an ostensibly neutral action has the inevitable effect of tying present rights to the discriminatory patterns of the past *fn7" or of placing a special burden upon blacks or other minorities. *fn8" Discrimination by race is a "suspect classification" which may only be justified in the light of a "compelling governmental interest." *fn9" Intent or good faith is no defense in cases of racial discrimination. *fn10" While the main principles of the law are thus clear, the Court must inquire further in order to determine the meaning of these principles in the context of municipal services.

 The Court in Hawkins was thus confronted with

 
undisputed statistical evidence which . . . clearly showed a substantial qualitative and quantitative inequity in the level and nature of services accorded "white" and "black" neighborhoods in Shaw. *fn13"

 In these circumstances, the Court held that a prima facie case of racial discrimination had been made, requiring the imposition of the "compelling governmental interest" test for equal protection purposes. *fn14"

 Two other cases merit detailed discussion. In Hobson v. Hansen,15 the Court was concerned with alleged racial discrimination in the District of Columbia's public school system. The school system had admittedly been engaged in de jure segregation as late as 1954, creating an extensive history of segregation. That history, according to the Hobson plaintiffs, gave rise to the discriminatory policies which they sought to end. *fn16" The Court held that, once a history of de jure segregation was shown, defendants had the burden to show that any remaining segregation stemmed from racially neutral policies. *fn17" The defendants in Hobson were unable to meet this burden.

 In Beal v. Lindsay,18 plaintiffs claimed discrimination in the maintenance and upkeep of a New York City park (Crotona Park) as compared to other nearby parks. *fn19" In general plaintiffs alleged that the subject park was littered, dirty and without appropriate facilities while the nearby parks were clean, well-maintained and adequate for their users' needs. *fn20" The City defended by asserting that the level of services given to the subject park was equal to or better than that accorded to the nearby parks but that the results were unequal since Crotona Park was subject to a much higher rate of vandalism than were other parks. *fn21" The Court upheld dismissal of the case saying that, at least where the inequality was not the product of an action itself illegal, equality of result was not required. *fn22" Substantial equality of input was constitutionally sufficient, said the Court, pointing out that Hawkins v. Town of Shaw turned on the substantial qualitative and quantitative difference in the input of services to black and white neighborhoods. *fn23"

 II. Application to the Case at Bar.

 A. Police Services.

 The Court has had the benefit of an Urban Institute study of police services in Washington, D.C. *fn25" The study concludes that police services are conducted according to acceptable management standards and that police services are accorded on a relatively equal basis to Anacostia and the area west of the Park. *fn26" Plaintiffs have stated that they accept this study as valid and accurate. They nonetheless request the Court to supervise police operations to ...


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