In Defense of Skelly Wright

Michael Tigar’s Notes:

In Hobson v. Hansen, 269 F.Supp. 401 (D.D.C. 1969), Judge J. Skelly Wright held:

The basic question presented is whether the defendants, the Superintendent of Schools and the members of the Board of Education, in the operation of the public school system here, unconstitutionally deprive the District's Negro and poor public school children of their right to equal educational opportunity with the District's white and more affluent public school children. This court concludes that they do.

At that time, D.C. did not have home rule. The Board of Education was appointed by the federal district judges. All those judges were recused, and court of appeals judge Wright heard the case. His eloquent and far-reaching opinion displeased Yale Law professor Alexander Bickel, who often argued that federal courts should exercise restraint when confronted with unconstitutional government conduct. He took up that theme in The New Republic. I wrote a rebuttal. At that time, we lived with our two children in a neighborhood that bore powerful evidence to the discrimination of which Judge Wright wrote.


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