Appeals Court Declines To Hear Separate Motions on Mississippi Desegregation Lawsuit
A federal appeals court last month declined to consider whether the widow of Jake Ayers Sr. can pursue a separate lawsuit over desegregation of Mississippi colleges.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said it would not consider any issues in the college desegregation lawsuit until the entire case was before it on appeal.
A 5th Circuit panel, headed by Chief Judge Carolyn King, said the issues raised by Lillie Ayers “do not resolve questions separate from the merits and are effectively reviewable on appeal from the final judgment.”
U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr., who oversees the long-running case, refused in November to allow Lillie Ayers and a number of plaintiffs to opt out of a proposed $500 million agreement in order to pursue a separate lawsuit (see Black Issues, Dec. 6, 2001).
The group included faculty members, students and alumni of Mississippi’s three historically Black universities.
Jake Ayers filed the lawsuit in 1975. The Ayers lawsuit challenged discrepancies in programs and funding at the state’s five predominantly White and three historically Black universities.
Jake Ayers, the father of a college student at the time, claimed the state was neglecting the historically Black schools. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Ayers in 1992 and sent the case back to the lower courts to be addressed.
Biggers signed a settlement of the case in February, a month after the Mississippi Legislature pledged to fulfill the requirements of it.
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