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Gardendale Forced to Pay Legal Fees to NAACP Amid its Push to Create its Own School System

Written by on December 28, 2019
Gavel in front of American Flag
A wooden gavel resting on a judges bench with the American flag in the background.

After attempting to create its own school system and district to divorce itself from the school system of Jefferson County (a 50 percent white county), the 80 percent white city of Gardendale is being ordered by U.S. District Court Judge, Madeline Haikala to pay $850,000 in legal fees and expenses to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and attorney, U.W. Clemon, who argued that Gardendale acted in an illegal way to preserve a white majority in the city’s schools.

Gardendale denied that race was a factor in their decision, but Haikala and the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed.

Haikala ruled, “Gardendale’s lack of candor regarding its appellate argument is another example of the Gardendale Board’s willingness to take any position that serves its interest in the moment,”

Haikala also ruled that Gardendale demonstrated bad faith when it tried to end federal court oversight of Jefferson County schools under a 1971 desegregation agreement.

“An award of fees is appropriate to deter others from behaving in a similar fashion.”

“Unresolved desegregation cases like this one may look like ‘white-haired’ litigation to some white citizens, but to black citizens – thousands of whom remain members of plaintiff classes – these cases are reminders of the painstaking efforts that black citizens have had to undertake to gain access to public schools that were reserved by law for white citizens.”

“A fee award in this case hopefully will prompt more respectful arguments in the future.”

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