Full Assault on the Color Line
In October 1972 the Eight Hoe Squad was disbanded, and in the same month, Lamar filed his pro se (without the assistance of counsel) segregation and discrimination complaint with the court. On September 25, 1973, Lamar and the black plaintiffs’ class were assigned Gerald Birnberg as counsel. On February 26, 1974, the Hispanic class was assigned separate counsel, David T. Lopez, and on June 5, 1974, TDC inmate defendant-intervenors opposed to racial desegregation in cells were assigned their own counsel, Ernest Caldwell. Harry Walsh and later Ed Idar of the Texas attorney general’s office represented members of the Texas Board of Corrections and the director of TDC. Gail Littlefield represented the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as plaintiff-intervenors.1
From 1973 to 1977, routine court procedures unfolded, including voluminous discoveries, depositions, interrogatories, motions to intervene, requests for production of documents, requests for extensions of time, and objections. All parties in the case were accumulating information and developing strategies that would be used in the event of a trial.
During pretrial maneuvers, the DOJ took perhaps the most active role in the case—a role that would continue in the long term and would become one of the most important aspects of this case. Gerald Birnberg, attorney for Lamar and the black plaintiffs’ class, explained: “The most crucial thing that happened during this period of time was that the United States Department of Justice agreed to intervene on behalf of the plaintiffs… It was just absolutely impossible for solo practitioners … to be able to match the resources of the state.”2
Lacking the resources to decipher discovery data and documents requested of TDC, Birnberg helped work out a strategy: