A federal appeals court here has ruled that a federal district judge must determine whether the plaintiffs in a key civil-rights case against the government still have legal standing to press their lawsuit.
According to Elliott Lichtman, a lawyer for the naacp Legal Defense and Educational Fund who represents the black plaintiffs in Adams v. Bell, a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held Sept. 14 that the district judge must determine whether the plaintiffs still have standing to sue in light of a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision in July.
In that case, Allen v. Wright, the Court ruled that a group of black parents from several Southern states had no standing to go to court to force the Internal Revenue Service to apply more vigorously its policy of denying tax-exempt status to private schools that discriminate on the basis of race.
In the Adams case, U.S. District Judge John H. Pratt has handed down several orders requiring the Education Department’s office for civil rights to comply with rigid schedules for the processing of civil-rights complaints and compliance reviews.
The Reagan Administration had asked the federal appeals court to do away with the schedules on the grounds that they are unworkable and represent unconstitutional judicial interference in executive-branch affairs.
Mr. Lichtman said his clients have not yet decided whether to ask for a rehearing before the entire appeals court.
“I think there is no doubt that our plaintiffs have standing to sue,” Mr. Lichtman said. In the Allen case, he explained, the black parents who brought the lawsuit had never attempted to enroll their children in the allegedly discriminatory academies. “In our case, we have students attending schools that are getting federal aid.”
The litigants in the Adams case were given 45 days to file a petition for a rehearing. According to Mr. Lichtman, the appellate panel left intact the schedules for resolving civil-rights disputes until after the court has ruled on any such petition.
A version of this article appeared in the October 03, 1984 edition of Education Week as Judge To Decide Rights Case Status