Judge orders Alabama city to pay legal fees in school fight
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A mostly white Alabama city that tried to form its own school system must pay nearly $850,000 to attorneys representing black people who successfully fought the move, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Haikala ruled Monday that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and attorney U.W. Clemon were due legal fees and expenses from Gardendale, which she said “acted in bad faith” when it attempted the split, al.com reported.
Located north of Birmingham, Gardendale had not filed a response to the decision by Thursday, and an attorney for the city’s school board did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
With about 14,000 residents, Gardendale is more than 80% white. It is located in Jefferson County, which is about 50% white.
The city formed its own school board and hired a superintendent in 2014 in an attempt to break away from Jefferson County’s school system. The Legal Defense Fund and Clemon, a former federal judge, claimed the move was an illegal attempt to preserve a white majority in the city’s schools.
Gardendale denied that race was a factor, but Haikala and the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed. 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.
Haikala ordered the city to pay nearly $740,000 in legal fees to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Clemon and another $106,400 in expenses.