Federal Judge Madeline Haikala on Monday entered an order that will require the City of Gardendale to pay the legal fees for the lawyers for the private plaintiffs opposed to the city's bid to create a city school system.
Lawyers for the private plaintiffs, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, had filed a motion to recoup their fees in a federal case that has dragged on for years.
The order will hold Gardendale responsible for $870,913.83 due to this ruling. The legal fees total $739,007, once the costs and expenses for the opposing legal teams are added, that total becomes $845,913.83. There is also a $25,000 amount awarded for the "bad faith" appeal.
The full breakdown of fees and expenses for work in this Court is as follows:
Jin Hee Lee
Clyde Hollins (Paralegal)
Matthew Bailey (Paralegal)
U.W. Clemon Costs/Expenses
Although legal fees for opposing council are not always ordered to be paid by the other party, but Haikala said it was appropriate in this case because the Gardendale Board of Education acted in "bad faith."
The bad faith the court said led to Gardendale's school attempt falling under the Stout vs. Jefferson County Board of Education are the following:
1) discriminatory motive for the creation of the Gardendale public school system
The court, in its initial ruling said the motivation to create the city school system was racially motivated, a claim Gardendale denied on appeal.
2) discriminatory conduct by separations organizers, the Gardendale Board, and Gardendale's Superintendent, and class members' resulting constitutional injury
The court cited plans from the school board to try to circumvent the desegregation orders for the county with various plans, as well as social media posts from various Gardendale residents that were deemed racist by the judge.
The court also found that Gardendale showed bad faith in the court proceedings in the following ways:
1) Gardendale's attempt to evade federal court
The ruling discusses Gardendale's attempts to gain control of the schools in the city limits through means outside the court in 2015.
2) Gardendale's Attempt to Terminate Federal Supervision of the Jefferson County District
The rulings says, "When it could not find a way around the desegregation order in this case, the Gardendale Board decided to try to eliminate the desegregation order and terminate federal supervision of the Jefferson County public school district."
The City of Gardendale, in 2013, imposed a 10 mil property tax increase (5 mils imposed by the city council and 5 mils voted by the residents) with the intention of using the money to fund a city school system, beginning a federal court battle to separate from the Jefferson County School System.
In 2017, after a week-long trial, Haikala granted the city partial control of the school system with a plan for full control, but found that the city did have racial motives for the separation.
In early 2018, a federal appeals court overturned the ruling and said the school system could not continue and the effort was unconstitutional.
After the federal appeal court overturned the ruling, Gardendale announced it would not continue its efforts to form a city school system.
Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland on Thursday said, "Obviously I am disappointed in Judge Haikala's ruling."
Hogeland said that because of the timing (the ruling was issued late Monday) with the holidays and council members being out of town, it will likely be another 10 days before the council can meet with its attorney to discuss options. Hogeland said the city would look at "all our options," but also expressed that he was ready to move forward and put the school case behind them.
Read the complete court ruling on the attached photo.