Vanderbilt Law Review


Joseph H. Bates

First Page



Karl Marx wrote that all historical facts occur twice--the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.' In the desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas, the genres were reversed. In 1957 the opportunistic Governor Orvall Faubus reduced to farce the Little Rock Board of Education's initial attempt to comply with the United States Supreme Court's decree in Brown v. Board of Education when he ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prohibit nine black students from entering Little Rock High School. In 1983, after more than two decades of continuous court supervision and intermittent litigation, the tragedy began when the Little Rock School District (LRSD) sued the two contiguous school districts, the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD)and the North Little Rock School District (NLRSD), as well as the State of Arkansas, seeking an interdistrict remedy of countywide consolidation of the three school districts.

Nine years earlier, in Milliken v. Bradley (Milliken I),' the Supreme Court had ruled that a court cannot grant an interdistrict remedy unless the plaintiff proves that constitutional violations by one school district produced significant discriminatory effects in another school district.' The plaintiffs never named the suburban school districts as defendants or put forth evidence of interdistrict violations by the suburban school districts. The district court had included the suburban school districts in the remedy because it determined that the Detroit school system contained too many blacks to desegregate it effectively within its own boundaries. The Supreme Court rejected the district court's metropolitan remedy because it would force the suburban school districts to participate in a remedy for a constitutional violation that they had not committed."