Back in the early 1970s I represented the Boston School Committee in the so-called busing case. There were two stages to the case: the liability stage and the remedy stage. The School Committee hire two firms to represent it in a suit filed by parents of black kids complaining that their kids were not afforded the same equal educational opportunity as that afforded to the white kids. The lawyers who were representing the aggrieved and various other entities who joined in to assist them came from private law firms who had “volunteered” their services.
During the first stage, the liability stage, the firm of Hale & Dorr (now WilmerHale) did most of the litigation for the Committee. James St Clair one of Boston’s prominent trial lawyers took the lead. The outcome was foreordained – it was apparent the city’s schools were highly segregated and there were enough examples of tacit cooperation by the Committee with that state of affairs to make a finding of deliberate segregation even though most of the segregation was attributed to neighborhood patterns rather than official action. But the judge was hell-bent to twist the situation into one where he could intervene so he found the Committee liable.
The next stage was needed to make a determination what to do about the matter. The judge had to create a remedy. The news media en masse, the people in the suburbs like the judge, and those with children in private schools whose children were not affected in any way by the judge’s decision were highly supportive of the black parents suit and the judge. Hale and Dorr seeing which way the public wind was howling took a wise but somewhat uncourageous step. It resigned from representing the Committee. That left my firm, mostly me, in the position of handling the remedy stage.
It was all fakery. What happened in court among counsel had little to do with the ultimate remedy. Most of it was devised behind closed doors in the judge’s lobby and for all I knew with members in the media who were excitedly cheering on the march over the cliff that every much affected the Boston school children as the actions of the Pied Piper did the children of Hamelin.
True, there was a hearing before four masters who were to make some type findings. Experts who knew nothing about the city testified based on maps they had prepared in their offices in Austin and Sacramento. The masters reported as the judge wanted. In some “emergency” hearings called by the judge it was demanded that I respond to recalcitrant or truculent statements made by Committee members that appeared in the newspapers or were whispered in the judge’s ear. It seemed not only was the Committees control over the public schools to be taken away but the judge brooking no opposition was intent on crushing their First Amendment right of free speech.
The debacle known as busing began. The inner city black kids and white kids were the guinea pigs; the designers and cheerleaders kids were not affected. They schooled on without a hiccup. Some communities recognizing the inadequacies of the Boston Public Schools allowed black kids to be bussed to their towns; none of their white kids would be bussed into the city. It was too dangerous.
It is universally recognized busing accomplished nothing in the way of education for the children. It did give those unaffected by the whole brouhaha a feeling of righteousness. It brought about a worse school system in which much of its resources were directed away from education to police protection, busing, and the many “experts” the judge surrounded himself with.
This all came back to mind reading a recent newspaper article about the 1.8 million dollar plus bills submitted by the ACLU and its lawyers against two Massachusetts cities. They represented the rights of panhandlers. It recalled a another bit of fakery that occurred during the busing case. The lawyers who were supposed to be “volunteers” were keeping tabs on their time and expenses. They submitted huge bills for their time involved in the litigation. This took more resources from the school kids. Their concern was not the education of the children but the enrichment of themselves.
This is an ongoing abuse in civil rights litigation. You would think that the 1.8 million dollar submittal in cases over whether the panhandling regulations of a city violated a person’s First Amendment right could be solved rather quickly and inexpensively. The judges in the federal courts in which these cases are heard live up to the expression “make a federal case out of nothing.” Their procedures are time-consuming and tedious. They would be much less so if the costs were coming out of their pockets. Little public good is served in taking money from poor cities and towns and filling the coffers of law firms.