Pro se litigants don’t often prevail before federal appellate courts, but that’s exactly what happened for Julie Cavalier in a case involving a Louisiana school district’s race-based admissions policy.
The former schoolteacher convinced the majority of a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the Caddo Parish, La., admissions policy for a magnet school constituted unlawful discrimination once a consent decree leading to the policy had been partially terminated.
“It was kind of surreal,” Cavalier says of her experience arguing before the 5th Circuit.
Julie and her husband, Kevin, sued in 2002 on behalf of their son Hunter after he was denied admittance to Caddo Middle Magnet School in Shreveport. Hunter’s achievement test scores were much higher than those of many black students accepted to the school, but they were not as high as those of the white student applicants admitted to the sixth grade class. The Cavaliers contended the race-conscious admissions policy violated the 14th Amendment. The Caddo Parish school board justified the system on the basis of a 1981 consent decree entered into by the board in a school desegregation case.