Hills v. Gautreaux
425 U.S. 284 (1976)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Hills v. Gautreaux, 425 U.S. 284 (1976)

Hills v. Gautreaux

No. 74-1047

Argued January 20, 1976

Decided April 20, 1976

425 U.S. 284

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Respondents, Negro tenants in or applicants for public housing in Chicago, brought separate class actions against the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), alleging that CHA had deliberately selected family public housing sites in Chicago to "avoid the placement of Negro families in white neighborhoods" in violation of federal statutes and the Fourteenth Amendment, and that HUD had assisted in that policy by providing financial assistance and other support for CHA's discriminatory housing projects. The District Court on the basis of the evidence entered summary judgment against CHA, which was ordered to take remedial action. The court then granted a motion to dismiss the HUD action, which meanwhile had been held in abeyance. The Court of Appeals reversed, having found that HUD had committed constitutional and statutory violations by sanctioning and assisting CHA's discriminatory program. The District Court thereafter consolidated the CHA and HUD cases and, having rejected respondents' motion to consider metropolitan area relief, adopted petitioner's proposed order for corrective action in Chicago. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case "for additional evidence and for further consideration of the issue of metropolitan area relief."

Held: A metropolitan area remedy in this case is not impermissible as a matter of law. Milliken v. Bradley,418 U. S. 717, distinguished. Pp. 425 U. S. 296-306.

(a) A remedial order against HUD affecting its conduct in the area beyond Chicago's geographic boundaries but within the housing market relevant to the respondents' housing options is warranted here because HUD, in contrast to the suburban school districts in Milliken, committed violations of the Constitution and federal statutes. Milliken imposes no per se rule that federal courts lack authority to order corrective action beyond the municipal boundaries where the violations occurred. Pp. 425 U. S. 297-300.

Page 425 U. S. 285

(b) The order affecting HUD's conduct beyond Chicago's boundaries would not impermissibly interfere with local governments and suburban housing authorities that were not implicated in HUD's unconstitutional conduct. Under the § 8 Lower-Income Housing Assistance program of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, HUD may contract directly with private owners and developers to make leased housing units available to eligible lower income persons, with local governmental units retaining the right to comment on specific proposals, to reject certain programs that are inconsistent with their approved housing assistance plans, and to require that zoning and other land use restrictions be observed by builders. Pp. 425 U. S. 300-306.

503 F.2d 930, affirmed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court in which all Members joined, except STEVENS, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. MARSHALL, J., filed a concurring statement, in which BRENNAN and WHITE, JJ., joined, post, p. 425 U. S. 306.

Page 425 U. S. 286

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been judicially found to have violated the Fifth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in connection with the selection of sites for public housing in the city of Chicago. The issue before us is whether the remedial order of the federal trial court may extend beyond Chicago's territorial boundaries.

I

This extended litigation began in 1966, when the respondents, six Negro tenants in or applicants for public housing in Chicago, brought separate actions on behalf of themselves and all other Negro tenants and applicants similarly situated against the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and HUD. [Footnote 1] The complaint filed against CHA in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleged that, between 1950 and 1965, substantially all of the sites for family public housing selected by CHA and approved by the Chicago City Council were "at the time of such selection, and are now," located "within the areas known as the Negro Ghetto." The respondents further alleged that CHA deliberately selected the sites to "avoid the placement of Negro families in white neighborhoods" in violation of federal statutes and the Fourteenth Amendment. In a companion suit against HUD, the respondents claimed that it had "assisted in the carrying on and continues to assist in the carrying on of a racially discriminatory public housing system within the City of Chicago" by providing

Page 425 U. S. 287

financial assistance and other support for CHA's discriminatory housing projects. [Footnote 2]

The District Court stayed the action against HUD pending resolution of the CHA suit. [Footnote 3] In February, 1969, the court entered summary judgment against CHA on the ground that it had violated the respondents' constitutional rights by selecting public housing sites and assigning tenants on the basis of race. [Footnote 4] Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority, 296 F.Supp. 907. Uncontradicted

Page 425 U. S. 288

evidence submitted to the District Court established that the public housing system operated by CHA was racially segregated, with four overwhelmingly white projects located in white neighborhoods and with 99 1/2% of the remaining family units located in Negro neighborhoods and 99% of those units occupied by Negro tenants. Id. at 910. [Footnote 5] In order to prohibit future violations and to remedy the effects of past unconstitutional practices, the court directed CHA to build its next 700 family units in predominantly white areas of Chicago, and thereafter to locate at least 75% of its new family public housing in predominantly white areas inside Chicago or in Cook County. Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority, 304 F.Supp. 736, 738-739. [Footnote 6] In addition, CHA was ordered to modify its tenant assignment and site selection procedures and to use its best efforts to increase the supply of dwelling units as rapidly as possible in conformity with the judgment. Id. at 739-741.

Page 425 U. S. 289

The District Court then turned to the action against HUD. In September, 1970, it granted HUD's motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed, and ordered the District Court to enter summary judgment for the respondents, holding that HUD had violated both the Fifth Amendment and § 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 252, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, by knowingly sanctioning and assisting CHA's racially discriminatory public housing program. Gautreaux v. Romney, 448 F.2d 731, 739-740. [Footnote 7]

On remand, the trial court addressed the difficult problem of providing an effective remedy for the racially segregated public housing system that had been created by the unconstitutional conduct of CHA and HUD. [Footnote 8]

Page 425 U. S. 290

The court granted the respondents' motion to consolidate the CHA and HUD cases and ordered the parties to formulate "a comprehensive plan to remedy the past effects of unconstitutional site selection procedures." The order directed the parties to "provide the Court with as broad a range of alternatives as seem . . . feasible," including "alternatives which are not confined in their scope to the geographic boundary of the City of Chicago." After consideration of the plans submitted by the parties and the evidence adduced in their support, the court denied the respondents' motion to consider metropolitan area relief and adopted the petitioner's

Page 425 U. S. 291

proposed order requiring HUD to use its best efforts to assist CHA in increasing the supply of dwelling units and enjoining HUD from funding family public housing programs in Chicago that were inconsistent with the previous judgment entered against CHA. The court found that metropolitan area relief was unwarranted because "the wrongs were committed within the limits of Chicago and solely against residents of the City" and there were no allegations that "CHA and HUD discriminated or fostered racial discrimination in the suburbs." On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, with one judge dissenting, reversed and remanded the case for

"the adoption of a comprehensive metropolitan area plan that will not only disestablish the segregated public housing system in the City of Chicago . . . but will increase the supply of dwelling units as rapidly as possible."

503 F.2d 930, 939. Shortly before the Court of Appeals announced its decision, this Court, in Milliken v. Bradley,418 U. S. 717, had reversed a judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that had approved a plan requiring the consolidation of 54 school districts in the Detroit metropolitan area to remedy racial discrimination in the operation of the Detroit public schools. Understanding Milliken "to hold that the relief sought there would be an impractical and unreasonable overresponse to a violation limited to one school district," the Court of Appeals concluded that the Milliken decision did not bar a remedy extending beyond the limits of Chicago in the present case because of the equitable and administrative distinctions between a metropolitan public housing plan and the consolidation of numerous local school districts. 503 F.2d at 935-936. In addition, the appellate court found that, in contrast to Milliken, there was evidence of suburban discrimination and

Page 425 U. S. 292

of the likelihood that there had been an "extra-city impact" of the petitioner's "intra-city discrimination." Id. at 936-937, 939-940. The appellate court's determination that a remedy extending beyond the city limits was both "necessary and equitable" rested in part on the agreement of the parties and the expert witnesses that "the metropolitan area is a single relevant locality for low rent housing purposes and that a city-only remedy will not work." Id. at 936-937. HUD subsequently sought review in this Court of the permissibility in light of Milliken of "inter-district relief for discrimination in public housing in the absence of a finding of an inter-district violation." [Footnote 9] We granted certiorari to consider this important question. 421 U.S. 962.

II

In Milliken v. Bradley, supra, this Court considered the proper scope of a federal court's equity decree in the context of a school desegregation case. The respondents in that case had brought an action alleging that the Detroit public school system was segregated on the basis of race as the result of official conduct and sought an order establishing "a unitary, nonracial school system.'" 418 U.S. at 418 U. S. 723. After finding that constitutional violations committed by the Detroit School Board and state officials had contributed to racial segregation in the Detroit schools, the trial court had proceeded to the formulation of a remedy. Although there had been neither proof of unconstitutional actions on the part of neighboring school districts nor a demonstration that the Detroit violations had produced significant segregative effects in those districts, the court established

Page 425 U. S. 293

a desegregation panel and ordered it to prepare a remedial plan consolidating the Detroit school system and 53 independent suburban school districts. Id. at 733-734. [Footnote 10] The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the desegregation order on the ground that, in view of the racial composition of the Detroit school system, the only feasible remedy required "the crossing of the boundary lines between the Detroit School District and adjacent or nearby school districts." 484 F.2d 215, 249. This Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding that the multidistrict remedy contemplated by the desegregation order was an erroneous exercise of the equitable authority of the federal courts.

Although the Milliken opinion discussed the many practical problems that would be encountered in the consolidation of numerous school districts by judicial decree, the Court's decision rejecting the metropolitan area desegregation order was actually based on fundamental limitations on the remedial powers of the federal courts to restructure the operation of local and state governmental entities. That power is not plenary. It "may be exercised only on the basis of a constitutional violation.'" 418 U.S. at 418 U. S. 738, quoting Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education,402 U. S. 1, 402 U. S. 16. See Rizzo v. Goode,423 U. S. 362, 423 U. S. 377. Once a constitutional violation is found, a federal court is required to

Page 425 U. S. 294

tailor "the scope of the remedy" to fit "the nature and extent of the constitutional violation." 418 U.S. at 418 U. S. 744; Swann, supra at 402 U. S. 16. In Milliken, there was no finding of unconstitutional action on the part of the suburban school officials and no demonstration that the violations committed in the operation of the Detroit school system had had any significant segregative effects in the suburbs. See 418 U.S. at 418 U. S. 745, 418 U. S. 748. The desegregation order in Milliken requiring the consolidation of local school districts in the Detroit metropolitan area thus constituted direct federal judicial interference with local governmental entities without the necessary predicate of a constitutional violation by those entities or of the identification within them of any significant segregative effects resulting from the Detroit school officials' unconstitutional conduct. Under these circumstances, the Court held that the inter-district decree was impermissible because it was not commensurate with the constitutional violation to be repaired.

Since the Milliken decision was based on basic limitations on the exercise of the equity power of the federal courts, and not on a balancing of particular considerations presented by school desegregation cases, it is apparent that the Court of Appeals erred in finding Milliken inapplicable on that ground to this public housing case. [Footnote 11]

Page 425 U. S. 295

The school desegregation context of the Milliken case is nonetheless important to an understanding of its discussion of the limitations on the exercise of federal judicial power. As the Court noted, school district lines cannot be "casually ignored or treated as a mere administrative convenience," because they separate independent governmental entities responsible for the operation of autonomous

Page 425 U. S. 296

public school systems. 418 U.S. at 418 U. S. 741-743. The Court's holding that there had to be an inter-district violation or effect before a federal court could order the crossing of district boundary lines reflected the substantive impact of a consolidation remedy on separate and independent school districts. [Footnote 12] The District Court's desegregation order in Milliken was held to be an impermissible remedy not because it envisioned relief against a wrongdoer extending beyond the city in which the violation occurred, but because it contemplated a judicial decree restructuring the operation of local governmental entities that were not implicated in any constitutional violation.

III

The question presented in this case concerns only the authority of the District Court to order HUD to take remedial action outside the city limits of Chicago. HUD does not dispute the Court of Appeals' determination that it violated the Fifth Amendment and § 601 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by knowingly funding CHA's racially discriminatory family public housing program, nor does it question the appropriateness of a remedial order designed to alleviate the effects of past segregative practices by requiring that public housing be developed in areas that will afford respondents an opportunity to reside in desegregated neighborhoods. But HUD contends that the Milliken decision bars a remedy affecting

Page 425 U. S. 297

its conduct beyond the boundaries of Chicago for two reasons. First, it asserts that such a remedial order would constitute the grant of relief incommensurate with the constitutional violation to be repaired. And second, it claims that a decree regulating HUD's conduct beyond Chicago's boundaries would inevitably have the effect of "consolidat[ing] for remedial purposes" governmental units not implicated in HUD's and CHA's violations. We address each of these arguments in turn.

A

We reject the contention that, since HUD's constitutional and statutory violations were committed in Chicago, Milliken precludes an order against HUD that will affect its conduct in the greater metropolitan area. The critical distinction between HUD and the suburban school districts in Milliken is that HUD has been found to have violated the Constitution. That violation provided the necessary predicate for the entry of a remedial order against HUD and, indeed, imposed a duty on the District Court to grant appropriate relief. See 418 U.S. at 418 U. S. 744. Our prior decisions counsel that, in the event of a constitutional violation, "all reasonable methods be available to formulate an effective remedy," North Carolina State Board of Education v. Swann,402 U. S. 43, 402 U. S. 46, and that every effort should be made by a federal court to employ those methods "to achieve the greatest possible degree of [relief], taking into account the practicalities of the situation." Davis v. School Comm'rs of Mobile County,402 U. S. 33, 402 U. S. 37. As the Court observed in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education:

"Once a right and a violation have been shown, the scope of a district court's equitable powers to remedy past wrongs is broad, for breadth and flexibility are inherent in equitable remedies."

402 U.S. at 402 U. S. 15.

Page 425 U. S. 298

Nothing in the Milliken decision suggests a per se rule that federal courts lack authority to order parties found to have violated the Constitution to undertake remedial efforts beyond the municipal boundaries of the city where the violation occurred. [Footnote 13] As we noted in 425 U. S. supra, the District Court's proposed remedy in Milliken was impermissible because of the limits on the federal judicial power to interfere with the operation of state political entities that were not implicated in unconstitutional conduct. Here, unlike the desegregation remedy found erroneous in Milliken, a judicial order directing relief beyond the boundary lines of Chicago will not necessarily entail coercion of uninvolved governmental units, because both CHA and HUD have the authority to operate outside the Chicago city limits. [Footnote 14]

Page 425 U. S. 299

In this case, it is entirely appropriate and consistent with Milliken to order CHA and HUD to attempt to create housing alternatives for the respondents in the Chicago suburbs. Here, the wrong committed by HUD confined the respondents to segregated public housing. The relevant geographic area for purposes of the respondents' housing options is the Chicago housing market, not the Chicago city limits. That HUD recognizes this reality is evident in its administration of federal housing assistance programs through "housing market areas" encompassing "the geographic area within which all dwelling units . . .' are in competition with one another as alternatives for the users of housing." Department of Housing and Urban Development, FHA Techniques of Housing Market Analysis 8 (Jan.1970), quoting the Institute for Urban Land Use and Housing Studies, Housing Market Analysis: A Study of Theory and Methods, c. 2 (1953). The housing market area "usually extends beyond the city limits," and, in the larger markets, "may extend into several adjoining counties." FHA Techniques of Housing Market Analysis, supra at 12. [Footnote 15] An order against HUD and CHA regulating their conduct in the greater metropolitan area will

Page 425 U. S. 300

do no more than take into account HUD's expert determination of the area relevant to the respondents' housing opportunities, and will thus be wholly commensurate with the "nature and extent of the constitutional violation." 418 U.S. at 418 U. S. 744. To foreclose such relief solely because HUD's constitutional violation took place within the city limits of Chicago would transform Milliken's principled limitation on the exercise of federal judicial authority into an arbitrary and mechanical shield for those found to have engaged in unconstitutional conduct.

B

The more substantial question under Milliken is whether an order against HUD affecting its conduct beyond Chicago's boundaries would impermissibly interfere with local governments and suburban housing authorities that have not been implicated in HUD's unconstitutional conduct. In examining this issue, it is important to note that the Court of Appeals' decision did not endorse or even discuss "any specific metropolitan plan," but instead left the formulation of the remedial plan to the District Court on remand. 503 F.2d at 936. On rehearing, the Court of Appeals characterized its remand order as one calling

"for additional evidence and for further consideration of the issue of metropolitan area relief in light of this opinion and that of the Supreme Court in Milliken v. Bradley."

Id. at 940. In the current posture of the case, HUD's contention that any remand for consideration of a metropolitan area order would be impermissible as a matter of law must necessarily be based on its claim at oral argument

"that court-ordered metropolitan relief in this case, no matter how gently it's gone about, no matter how it's framed, is bound to require HUD to ignore the safeguards of local autonomy and local political processes,"

and therefore to violate the limitations on federal judicial power

Page 425 U. S. 301

established in Milliken. In addressing this contention, we are not called upon, in other words, to evaluate the validity of any specific order, since no such order has yet been formulated.

HUD's position, we think, underestimates the ability of a federal court to formulate a decree that will grant the respondents the constitutional relief to which they may be entitled without overstepping the limits of judicial power established in the Milliken case. HUD's discretion regarding the selection of housing proposals to assist with funding as well as its authority under a recent statute to contract for low-income housing directly with private owners and developers can clearly be directed toward providing relief to the respondents in the greater Chicago metropolitan area without preempting the power of local governments by undercutting the role of those governments in the federal housing assistance scheme.

An order directing HUD to use its discretion under the various federal housing programs to foster projects located in white areas of the Chicago housing market would be consistent with and supportive of well established federal housing policy. [Footnote 16] Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits racial discrimination in federally assisted programs including, of course, public housing programs. [Footnote 17] Based upon this statutory prohibition, HUD in 1967 issued site-approval rules for low-rent

Page 425 U. S. 302

housing designed to avoid racial segregation and expand the opportunities of minority group members "to locate outside areas of [minority] concentration." Department of Housing and Urban Development, Low-Rent Housing Manual, § 205.1,

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