Maryland Historically Black Colleges and Universities Litigation
The Lawyers' Committee and partners represent plaintiffs in The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, a case that alleges that Maryland has failed to dismantle the vestiges of segregation from its prior de jure system of higher education. Plaintiffs include prospective students, current students, and alumni of the state's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
Prior to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, Maryland operated a de jure system of segregation in higher education between white and black students. This system forced black students to attend schools that were insufficiently funded, provided inferior facilities, and lacked the programmatic opportunities offered at the traditionally white schools in the system. Even after Brown prohibited segregation in education, Maryland failed to adequately remedy this disparity.
In 2000, Maryland entered into a Partnership Agreement with the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to bring the state into compliance with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Maryland has failed to meet its commitments under the agreement. The state's continuing failures to the HBCUs span the areas of funding, capital improvements, and unnecessary program duplication.
The suit seeks equality between the state's HBCUs and its traditionally white schools to ensure that all students attending Maryland's public colleges and universities receive a quality education. Specifically, plaintiffs want the state to stop allowing traditionally white schools to duplicate programs at the HBCUs, the development of unique programs at the HBCUs, and funds for needed capital improvements.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Chief Counsel Jon Greenbaum, Senior Counsel Brenda Shum, and Associate Counsel Jennifer Coco from the Lawyers’ Committee; Michael Jones, Karen Walker, Savaria Harris, and Henry Thompson from Kirkland & Ellis LLP; and John Brittain from the UDC School of Law.
Trial is quickly approaching in The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, et al. v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et al., Civil No. MJG-06-2773, (D. Md.) (refiled December 31, 2007). Coalition v. MHEC challenges Maryland’s failure to desegregate its historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
This fall, the parties engaged in mediation with Judge Paul Grimm. The HBCU presidents were invited to comment on both the Plaintiffs’ demands and the Defendants’ counter-proposal. Each offered specific comments describing the disparities on their campuses and the State’s failure to remedy the ongoing vestiges of discrimination experienced by their students.
By September, Judge Grimm conceded the parties were not on track to successfully mediate an agreement. He canceled the proposed October mediation date and encouraged Plaintiffs to prepare for trial. Plaintiffs immediately requested that Judge Catherine Blake convene a status conference to revise the pre-trial schedule and address outstanding pre-trial motions.
On November 10, Judge Blake held a telephonic status conference to address exhibits, witnesses, and outstanding pre-trial matters. She ordered the parties to submit their joint pre-trial order on November 30, and scheduled the pre-trial conference for December 13 and 14. The six-week trial is scheduled to begin on January 3, 2012.
On November 21, Defendants produced over a thousand pages of additional documents which they claim to have just discovered when moving their office to Baltimore. Plaintiffs are still reviewing those documents but have already identified several which will be useful to the case. Plaintiffs are revising their exhibit list accordingly and the parties will meet and confer on November 28 to finalize the pre-trial order.
The bench trial in this case is scheduled to begin on January 3, 2012 and to last for 6 weeks.
To read the Plaintiffs' status report on discovery and disputed issues, filed on November 12, 2010, please click here.
To read the Plaintiffs' October 2010 pre-trial statement (Statement of the Case and Statement of the Issues to be Considered at Trial), please click here.
To read the Fourth Amended Complaint filed by the Plaintiffs in this case in September 2010, please click here.
To read the December 14, 2011 Order on Motions in Limine and Other Pre-Trial Motions, please click here.
To learn more about the background of this case and current issues, please view the following recently-published articles:
- December 14, 2011 - "Maryland's Ugly Segregated Past Must Be Shown"
- December 15, 2011 - "HBCU 'Equality' Lawsuit: The Battle to Correct the Inequities Against Maryland's Black Colleges"
- December 22, 2011 - "The Rocky Road Following Brown vs. Board of Education: HBCU 'Equality' Lawsuit"
- December 28, 2011 - "Maryland Fails to Keep Its Promise to HBCUs: Lawsuit Demands Historically Black Institutions be Brought on Par with Historically White Ones"