Interview with Thomas Atkins

Now can you give me a sense of why federal court? Why did you think that was going to make a difference in terms of the situation in Boston?


I think the view was that if a lawsuit were to be filed--You only had two choices. You could file it in state court or you could file it in federal court. Legally, ah, the precedents, the most important precedents had all been made in the federal courts ah, starting with the 1954 Supreme Court decision in the Brown case. Ah, northern school systems like Boston began to be affected by ah, school desegregation law. It was also f--the feeling of most of us who had been involved with this issue that state courts were simply not suited for handling a case of this magnitude just in terms of its size. The logistics of handling a case of this size. Nor were they suited in terms of the resources they had available. And we were concerned th, that this would be too controversial a case to take in a state court. All of those things led to the decision to put it in federal court. A single federal judge, sitting in a federal district court is the most empow--is the most powerful man in American political system. Keep in mind it was one federal judge. No, no bigger than Arthur Garrity. No more power than Judge Garrity had, who pulled Nixon off his throne. We figured that probably could straighten out the Boston School Committee.


That's a cut.