Latino Action Network et al. v. The State of New Jersey et al. (filed May 17, 2018)


On the 64th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, our attorneys, and Gibbons P.C. as co-counsel, filed a complaint in Mercer County Superior Court against the state of New Jersey claiming that persistent segregation in New Jersey’s public schools has violated the constitutional rights of hundreds of thousands of New Jersey students. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a coalition of civil rights groups, including the Latino Action Network and the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, the Latino Coalition, the United Methodist Church of New Jersey, the Urban League of Essex County, and nine children of various racial backgrounds. Among other things, the suit seeks judgment (1) declaring that the levels of racial segregation in New Jersey’s public schools violate the New Jersey Constitution, as well as New Jersey statutes; (2) enjoining the continued assignment of public school students, including those attending charter schools, solely on the basis of municipal attendance boundaries; and (3) mandating that the Legislature, the Commissioner of Education, and the State Department of Education adopt a replacement assignment methodology that will timely address and remediate racial segregation in New Jersey’s public schools, including in charter schools.

Despite being an extremely diverse state, New Jersey’s public school system is one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation. Included in the complaint are statistics taken from the state’s own publicly reported data. The complaint also cites social science research published since the late 1980s demonstrating that low-income black and Latino students who attend racially and socioeconomically diverse schools are more likely to achieve higher test scores and grades, graduate from high school, and attend and graduate from college, as compared with their otherwise comparable peers who attend schools with high percentages of racial and socioeconomic segregation. The complaint also states that all pupils, “including white students,” are harmed by “homogeneous learning and social environments” that “produce a two-way system of racial stereotyping, stigma, fear, and hostility that obscures individuality and denies all concerned the recognized benefits of diversity in education.”

After several months of settlement discussions, the plaintiffs returned to court in April 2019 to report that such discussions had been largely unproductive. To address some corrections in the data cited, the plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint on Aug. 2, 2019, and the state filed its Amended Answer on Aug. 22, 2019.

On Sept. 27, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the issue of liability, asking the Superior Court in Mercer County to rule based on undisputed facts that the existing levels of racial segregation in New Jersey’s public schools violate provisions of the New Jersey Constitution and New Jersey Statutes as a matter of law, eliminating the necessity of a trial on the question of liability.

On January 10, 2020, the court ordered the plaintiffs to notify all school districts in the state that they could join the litigation.

In March 2022, Gibbons’ attorney Lawrence Lustberg and Pashman Stein attorneys Michael S. Stein and Roger Plawker appeared before a Mercer County Superior Court judge on the motion for summary judgment.

After 15 months, on October 6, 2023, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy issued his ruling, agreeing with part of plaintiff’s contention: that school segregation exists and it is the state’s constitutional duty to fix it, but did not find that the case was appropriate for summary judgment.

The case is ongoing.

Press Coverage

Group Sues New Jersey to Desegregate Schools | The Observer | May 17, 2018
Lawsuit Seeks to Better Integrate New Jersey Schools | The Wall Street Journal | May 17, 2018
New Jersey Law Codifies School Segregation, Suit Says | New York Times | May 17, 2018
N.J. schools among 'most segregated' in nation, suit says | The Philadelphia Inquirer | May 17, 2018
N.J. schools are among the most segregated in U.S. This lawsuit could change that | | May 17, 2018
Segregated schools? Group challenges where NJ kids go to school, arguing system is biased | | May 17, 2018
Suit Aimed at Ending NJ School Segregation Targets Role of Charter Schools | | May 17, 2018
Lawsuit: NJ Schools are Illegally Segregated | NewJersey101.5 | October 13, 2019
School Segregation Suit Seeking Big Changes | | October 30, 2019 


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