In addition to the usual papers submitted in any lawsuit, I prepared a brief entitled “Media and Organizational Response” in which we argued that important members and constituencies of the community were supportive of the black community in this lawsuit, including all of the local clergy, the New York and Long Island daily newspapers, the local radio stations, the teachers’ unions, and the American Jewish Congress. An amicus brief from the American Jewish Congress would, we hoped, call attention to the fact that the head of the Board of Regents (in effect the immediate superior of the Commissioner of Education) was a prominent member of the AJC.
It was very difficult to figure out the school district’s position. On the one hand they were opposed to our application but, on the other hand, they made the same arguments we did, calling upon the Commissioner to support our request for the funding of intra-district busing as an “ordinary contingent expense.” Obviously the district was trying to appease its constituents while at the same time conceding that our arguments were correct.
The attorney for the school district was the former lawyer for the Commissioner of Education and had worked for the Education Commission for a number of years, having only left that office a few weeks before. His representation of the school district in this matter therefore seemed a clear conflict of interest. The attorney for the N.A.A.C.P., after consulting with me, requested his recusal but I don’t believe any action was taken on that request. But, in general, relations with the N.A.A.C.P. were not so amicable. The March 1978 issue of their Rockville Centre/Lakeview branch published a lead article asserting that they were pursuing legal action against the Malverne School District and that certain concerned citizens (my clients) were also pursuing legal action. In this article the N.A.A.C.P. claimed that they had tried to get along “amiably” with my clients but that we had never contacted their attorney or responded to any communications from their organization so that, because of our “aggravating” behavior, they had decided to go it alone. Not a word of this was true but the branch president of the N.A.A.C.P. refused to make a move to disavow this article without the consent of the Chairperson, and she was uncooperative.
A few months after the initial papers were filed, members of the community and I attended a hearing in Albany before the Commissioner. As we set off by bus, the ten or so clergy—white, black, Jew, and Gentile—who stood by the bus, prayed for the success of our effort. I was so moved I almost cried. I must say that in all the human rights struggles I have participated, I have never witnessed such camaraderie and love.
In Albany we met with our local State Senator, asking for his support of our application. He took me off to the side and said words to the effect, “Alvin, you know I can’t do such a thing; it’s very controversial.” And when the Commissioner granted our application, ordering the school district to pay for busing all students living more than eight tenths of a mile from school, (calling it “an ordinary contingent expense”), He introduced legislation calling for the State to pick up the “transportation tab” for the integration of the school district, thereby making himself the hero of the white community. Obviously, he had no shame. If he had proposed this legislation in the first place the whole proceeding and controversy could have been avoided.
The community held a victory celebration and about four hundred people attended a wonderful dinner at the Freeport Yacht Club. My wife shared in my happiness, having also sacrificed for the cause, since I had put in hundreds and hundreds of hours on the case. Very few lawsuits that I handled seemed to work out so perfectly and to bring as much joy as this one. Representing the Lakeview Community was a two-way street. I believe I gave them zealous representation and, in turn, I had the wonderful feeling of having done an effective and devoted job.