Northcross v. Board of Education of the Memphis, Tennessee City Schools/Concurrence Burger
Mr. Chief Justice BURGER, concurring in the result.
Save for one factor, I would grant the petition and set the case for expedited argument at a special sitting, if necessary. The factor which is a barrier to taking this step now in this particular case is that one Justice would not be able to participate, thus limiting the Court to seven justices. I would do this on the basis that the time has come to clear up what seems to be a confusion, genuine or simulated, concering this Court's prior mandates. By the time of No. 944, Carter v. West Feliciana Parish School Board, 396 U.S. 290, 90 S.Ct. 608, 24 L.Ed.2d 477 (1970), Mr. Justice Stewart and I indicated we preferred not to reach decision without first hearing oral argument.
These school cases present widely varying factors: some records reveal plans for desegregating schools, others have no plans or only partial plans; some records reflect rezoning of school districts, others do not; some use traditional bus transportation such as began with consolidated schools where such transportation was imperative, others use school bus transportation for a different purpose and unrelated to the availability of a school as to which such transportation is not required.
The suggestion that the Court has not defined a unitary school system is not supportable. In Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, 396 U.S. 19, 90 S.Ct. 29, 24 L.Ed.2d 19 (1969), we stated, albeit perhaps too cryptically, that a unitary system was one 'within which no person is to be effectively excluded from any school because of race or color.' From what is now before us in this case it is not clear what issues might be raised or developed on argument. As soon as possible, however, we ought to resolve some of the basic practical problems when they are appropriately presented including whether, as a constitutional matter, any particular racial balance must be achieved in the schools; to what extent school districts and zones may or must be altered as a constitutional matter; and to what extent transportation may or must be provided to achieve the ends sought by prior holdings of the Court. Other related issues may emerge.
However, for the reasons stated, namely that the Court is already disabled by one vacancy of long standing and further disabled in the particular case, I join in the result reached by the Court.