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Caesar v. Pataki

Caesar v. Pataki was a class action discrimination suit alleging that the state’s failure to satisfy certain regulatory requirements designed to improve educational opportunity had a racially disparate impact upon children attending “high minority schools,” in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Over 80,000 children attend approximately 150 “high minority” schools located outside of New York City. The student populations at these schools are more than 80 percent minority, and are located in approximately 21 districts across the state in communities including Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany, Rochester, Yonkers, Mt. Vernon, Hempstead, Uniondale, Roosevelt, Freeport, Elmont, Westbury, Wyandanch and Amityville. The NYCLU filed a suit alleging that, for many years, the State has recognized and, by regulation, imposed specific mandates necessary to the operation of successful schools. Such mandates involve the requirements that teachers be properly licensed and certified in the subject areas in which they are teaching; that students who fail the state-administered competency tests be provided with remedial services specifically addressed to the students’ deficiencies; and that schooling take place in safe and well-equipped buildings. The NYCLU contended that the failure by the state to enforce properly these mandates had a racially disparate effect upon “high minority” schools and that such disparities are unjustified and violative of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In August 2000, the District Court denied the State’s motion to dismiss and granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. On the motion to dismiss, the District Court ruled that Title VI creates a private cause of action and further that a failure to enforce statutory and regulatory mandates violates the “impact” regulations of Title VI. The district judge also certified a class of all minority children attending the approximately 150 high-minority schools outside New York City. On Nov. 9, 2001, the state moved again to dismiss the suit, this time on the basis of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001). In Sandoval, the Supreme Court had concluded that no private right exists to enforce “disparate impact” regulations under Title VI. Relying upon Sandoval, the District Court ordered the dismissal of the suit on March 25, 2002. The NYCLU appealed, hoping to distinguish Sandoval from the present case. The NYCLU was forced to withdraw that appeal with prejudice on March 11, 2003, when a decision subsequent to Sandoval made it clear that the appeal could not be sustained. 

S.D.N.Y., Index No. 98 Civ. 8532, U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Cir., No. 02-7459 (direct).

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