Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Ayers Plaintiffs Ask Appeals Court to Throw out Desegregation Pact

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Ayers Plaintiffs Ask Appeals Court to Throw out Desegregation Pact

Article excerpt

JACKSON, MISS.

A federal appeals court has been asked to throw out the settlement of Mississippi's college desegregation case and start the process from step one.

Attorney Alvin Chambliss asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to schedule a hearing on demands from plaintiffs opposed to last year's deal.

Chambliss had until Feb. 19 to file briefs or the appeals court threatened to dismiss the case. He filed the 50-page appeal on the deadline day.

Chambliss, who has represented plaintiffs in the case for more than 20 years, now represents Lillie Ayers, the widow of the man who filed the lawsuit, along with some professors and alumni. The group says the settlement is unfair and far short of what the late Jake Ayers Sr. desired (see Black Issues, Jan. 16).

Pain Smith, assistant higher education commissioner, said earlier this month that the College Board attorneys had until March 26 to reply to Chambliss' briefs. Chambliss would then have time to respond to the state. She said the board's attorneys believe it could be mid-April before the 5th Circuit decides whether to hold a hearing.

The college desegregation case originated in 1975 when Jake Ayers sued the state, accusing Mississippi of neglecting its Black universities for decades. Plaintiffs successfully demanded that more money be put into the historically Black institutions to end discrimination. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed and ordered remedies.

U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. signed the $503 million settlement of the case in February 2002, a month after the Mississippi Legislature pledged to fulfill its requirements. …

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