Burton v. City of Belle Glade , 178 F.3d 1175 ( 1999 )


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                    IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
    
                            FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT                   FILED
                                                                U.S. COURT OF APPEALS
                               ________________________           ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
                                                                       06/25/99
                                                                   THOMAS K. KAHN
                                     No. 97-5091                        CLERK
                              ________________________
                       D. C. Docket No. 95-8356-CIV-RYSKAMP
    
    LILLIE BURTON,
    VALLIE DANIELLES, et al.,
                                                                   Plaintiffs-Appellants,
    
                                           versus
    
    CITY OF BELLE GLADE,
    BELLE GLADE CITY COMMISSION, et al.,
                                                                 Defendants-Appellees.
    
                               ________________________
    
                       Appeal from the United States District Court
                           for the Southern District of Florida
                             _________________________
    
                                      (June 25, 1999)
    
    
    Before TJOFLAT, BARKETT and MARCUS, Circuit Judges.
    
    MARCUS, Circuit Judge:
    
          Appellants, three African-American tenants of the Okeechobee Center, a
    
    housing project located in unincorporated Palm Beach County, and four African-
    
    American residents of the City of Belle Glade, brought this lawsuit alleging that the
    City of Belle Glade unlawfully deprived them of their right to vote in failing to annex
    
    the Okeechobee Center into the City. Specifically, Appellants contend that the City
    
    failed to annex the housing project for racial reasons in violation of the First,
    
    Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,
    
    section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of
    
    1964 and its implementing regulations. After extensive pre-trial proceedings, the
    
    district court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, the City of Belle
    
    Glade and others, on all counts, finding neither a constitutional nor a statutory
    
    violation.
    
          On appeal, Appellants challenge the district court’s order on three basic
    
    grounds: first, the district court purportedly erred in concluding that Appellants failed
    
    to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to Appellees’ discriminatory intent; second,
    
    the district court also erred in holding that the remedies they sought -- including the
    
    unusual remedy of ordering a city to annex property into its municipal boundaries --
    
    were neither available under the Voting Rights Act nor permissible under the Federal
    
    Rules of Civil Procedure; and finally, the district court erred in granting summary
    
    judgment sua sponte to Appellees on Appellants’ Title VI claims. After thoroughly
    
    reviewing the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the district court’s judgment
    
    concerning Appellants’ constitutional and Voting Rights Act claims, as well as the
    
    Title VI statutory claim, but reverse and remand Appellants’ cause of action to enforce
    
                                               2
    Title VI’s disparate impact regulations for further proceedings consistent with this
    
    opinion.
    
    
    
                                             I.
    
          The historical facts and the procedural history necessary to understand this
    
    lawsuit are complex and extensive. At the core, however, this legal battle has been
    
    fought over the refusal of the City of Belle Glade (“City”) to annex an adjacent
    
    housing project known as the Okeechobee Center Farmers’ Home Administration
    
    Project (“Okeechobee Center”) into its geographic and municipal boundaries.
    
          The City of Belle Glade is an incorporated municipality located on the western
    
    side of Palm Beach County, near Florida’s agricultural heartland. In the 1930s, the
    
    federal government created two housing projects outside the city limits. One of them,
    
    known as the Osceola Center, was populated by whites and stood at the City’s
    
    northwest corner. The other, the Okeechobee Center, was populated by blacks and
    
    was located to the southwest of the City. In 1947, the City created the Belle Glade
    
    Housing Authority (“BGHA”), a board of seven members nominated by the mayor
    
    and appointed by the City Commission, to address the “shortage of safe sanitary
    
    dwelling accommodations in the City of Belle Glade available to persons of low
    
    income at rentals they can afford.” The BGHA assumed ownership and operation of
    
    both the Osceola and Okeechobee Centers. The centers, however, remain funded in
    
                                             3
    part by the federal government through grants from the Department of Agriculture.
    
    “Jim Crow” laws required both housing projects to be segregated by race.1 During
    
    this time, the City also mandated residential segregation. See, e.g., Belle Glade, Fla.,
    
    Ordinance 45, 184, 273, 443 (Nov. 18, 1931, Sept. 18, 1936, January 12, 1938,
    
    December 27, 1939). These ordinances were repealed, however, by 1963. See Belle
    
    Glade, Fla., Ordinance 63-11, § 1 (April 24, 1963) (repealing Belle Glade, Fla., Code
    
    §§ 26-14 to -17 (relating to zoning)).
    
           In 1960, the total population of the City of Belle Glade was 11,273, of which
    
    7,393 (65.6%) were non-whites and 3,880 (34.4%) were whites.2 The following year,
    
    the City proposed, for the first time, extending its municipal boundaries by annexing
    
    both the Okeechobee and Osceola Centers. The City asked the property owner,
    
    
           1
            In March 1975, however, a group of tenants brought suit in federal district court
    against the Secretary of Agriculture and various local housing authorities under Title VI of
    the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to integrate the centers. See Mae Golden Acres Tenants’ Ass’n
    v. Butz, No. 75-1161-CIV-JE (S.D. Fla. 1975). On July 19, 1977, the district court entered
    a stipulation for consent judgment in the Mae Golden Acres litigation, which provided that
    the BGHA would no longer segregate the Osceola and Okeechobee Centers by race and
    would administer the projects according to racially non-discriminatory policies. This
    settlement marked the formal end of de jure segregation at the Osceola and Okeechobee
    Centers.
           2
           As of 1970, the total population of Belle Glade increased to 15,949, of which the
    percentage of blacks decreased to 52.9% while the percentage of whites increased to 46.5%.
    By 1993, a special census showed that the City’s total population had increased further to
    17,208, the population of blacks increasing to 54.8% and the white population decreasing to
    39.6%. As of May 24, 1994, the population of the Osceola Center was 46% black, 50%
    Hispanic, and 4% white, whereas the population of the Okeechobee Center was 92% black
    and 8% Hispanic.
    
                                                 4
    BGHA, whether it had any views on the matter. After discussing the possible
    
    advantages and disadvantages, the BGHA ultimately petitioned to the City only for
    
    annexation of the Osceola Center. Soon thereafter, on April 26, 1961, the City
    
    Commission considered the BGHA’s petition and unanimously annexed the Osceola
    
    Center.
    
          In the 1970s, the City and the BGHA twice considered the possibility of
    
    annexing the Okeechobee Center. In 1971, the City Commission’s minutes simply
    
    reflect that a meeting was to be arranged between the City Commission and the
    
    BGHA to discuss the possibility of annexing the Okeechobee Center. The minutes
    
    make no mention, however, of who made the annexation request or whether any
    
    meeting was ever held. Two years later, on February 26, 1973, a group of tenants
    
    from the Okeechobee Center asked the City Commission to annex the center. The
    
    City Commission advised the tenants that it would consider annexation if the BGHA
    
    made the request. On April 17, 1973, the tenants asked the BGHA to petition the City
    
    for annexation, but the BGHA denied their request in October 1973. The record does
    
    not reflect whether the BGHA offered any reason for denying the request.
    
          The following year, the Florida legislature repealed all local laws pertaining to
    
    the adjustment of municipal boundaries and established a uniform legislative standard
    
    for use throughout the state. See Municipal Annexation or Contraction Act, 1974 Fla.
    
    Laws ch. 74-190, § 1 (codified as amended at Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 171.021-.022 (West
    
                                              5
    1987)). The statute specifically provided for the voluntary annexation of any property
    
    contiguous to a municipality upon petition by the property owner to the municipality’s
    
    governing body. See 1974 Fla. Laws ch. 74-190, § 1 (codified as amended at Fla.
    
    Stat. Ann. § 171.044(1) (West Supp. 1998)). The City Commission also could initiate
    
    annexation of any contiguous, compact, and unincorporated property by a referendum
    
    of the registered voters of the municipality and the residents of the area proposed to
    
    be annexed. See 1975 Fla. Laws ch. 75-297, § 2 (codified as amended at Fla. Stat.
    
    Ann. § 171.0413 (West. 1987 & Supp. 1998)).                 Notably, according to these
    
    provisions, the statute prohibited municipalities from annexing any property that did
    
    not meet the statute’s definition of contiguity. See 1974 Fla. Laws ch. 74-190, § 1
    
    (codified as amended at Fla. Stat. Ann. § 171.031(11) (West 1987)).3
    
           Two attempts to secure the City’s annexation of the Okeechobee Center through
    
    litigation occurred in 1980.4 Pursuant to a settlement agreement, the City and City
    
    Commission agreed to appoint an “Annexation Committee” to investigate and make
    
    
           3
            The parties dispute whether the Okeechobee Center is contiguous to the City, and,
    hence, available for annexation under Florida law. See discussion infra Part II.B.2.
           4
            In Okeechobee Center Cries for Help v. Belle Glade Housing Authority, No. 80-
    8220-CIV-JAG (S.D. Fla. 1980), tenants of the Okeechobee Center sued the City and the
    BGHA seeking, inter alia, a mandatory injunction requiring the defendants to take all steps
    necessary to annex the Okeechobee Center into Belle Glade. Similarly, in Jackson v. City
    of Belle Glade, No. 80-8156-CIV-JAG (S.D. Fla. 1980), some Belle Glade residents brought
    suit against the City and BGHA, seeking annexation of all black areas adjacent to the City
    The parties eventually resolved both lawsuits prior to trial without the plaintiffs’ obtaining
    annexation and, in March 1984, the court dismissed the suits with prejudice.
    
                                                  6
    recommendations concerning the wisdom and efficacy of annexing the Okeechobee
    
    Center.5 In November 1984, after the Committee held public hearings, received
    
    comments from the public, investigated and considered the possibilities and
    
    ramifications of annexation, and conducted a cost study of annexation, the Committee
    
    issued a report recommending against annexation on the grounds that the Okeechobee
    
    Center did not satisfy Florida’s statutory contiguity requirement and that annexation
    
    did not make reasonable economic sense for the City.6 However, the report also urged
    
    the City Commission to consider other factors “relating to the humanitarian aspects
    
    of those residing in Okeechobee Center” in light of residents’ feelings “that
    
    annexation would right past ‘wrongs.’” On January 28, 1985, the City Commission
    
    officially accepted the Annexation Committee’s report.
    
           As far as the record reflects, the tenants’ efforts at annexing the Okeechobee
    
    Center lay dormant for over ten years, until May 8, 1995, when Albert Peterson, a
    
    resident of the Okeechobee Center and President of the Resident’s Council of the
    
    
           5
            The City Commission appointed five members to this Committee: one member of the
    Okeechobee Center Tenant’s Association, one black resident of the City as recommended
    by the Panhellenic Council, and three additional members, at least one of whom had to be
    a member of a minority group.
           6
             Specifically, the report estimated the following capital outlay and first year start-up
    costs: library services, $158,693; inspection, $8,000; fire, $442,000; streets $7,140; building
    and grounds, $18,640; garbage collection, $138,483; police, $133,724; and parks and
    recreation, $119, 556. Thus, the total estimated costs were $1,026,236. The report further
    estimated that the property would generate miscellaneous revenues for the City of $126,000
    per year.
    
                                                   7
    Okeechobee and Osceola Centers, wrote Mayor Weeks requesting that the City annex
    
    the Okeechobee Center. On May 30, 1995, the Mayor denied Peterson’s request,
    
    concluding that annexation would be “neither feasible nor advantageous to the City
    
    from the financial and public services perspective.” The Mayor’s letter summarized
    
    the findings of “[a] study of this issue that was done a number of years ago”:
    
                        Upon annexation, the City must provide the
                 following municipal services: water, sewer, police
                 protection, sanitation services, street lighting, street signs,
                 street paving, maintenance, drainage, parks and recreation.
                 Since the subject land is exempt from ad valorem taxes, no
                 property taxes would be generated to offset the cost of
                 providing the necessary services, which far outweigh any
                 miscellaneous revenues that might be realized.
    
                         Other factors in determining the viability of annexing
                 the parcel included the following: 1) No need exists to
                 expand into the proposed parcel, 2) No industry would be
                 annexed, 3) The parcel would provide no additional
                 facilities to be brought into the City, 4) Annexation would
                 not improve the economy of the City, and 5) The
                 Comprehensive Plan would have to be revised thereby
                 compounding the expense to the City.
    
                       City Attorney John Baker’s legal opinion was that
                 the City may not annex the property known as the
                 Okeechobee Center because the said property is not
                 contiguous to the municipal boundaries, and annexation is
                 therefore prohibited by Florida statutes.
    
    Because “costs have risen, conditions have not changed, and the laws have not been
    
    amended” since that study was conducted, the Mayor concluded that he would not
    
    propose annexation of the Okeechobee Center.
    
                                               8
          On June 12, 1995, four tenants of the Okeechobee Center7 and four black
    
    residents of the City initiated this lawsuit seeking injunctive and declaratory relief
    
    against the City of Belle Glade, the Mayor of Belle Glade, the Belle Glade City
    
    Commission and its members, and the BGHA and its officers and members alleging
    
    that the BGHA’s failure to petition for annexation and the City’s failure to annex the
    
    Okeechobee Center, as well as the City’s practice of annexing property populated by
    
    whites, denied or abridged the rights of Appellants to vote on account of race or color
    
    in violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973 (1994),
    
    and that these practices were adopted or purposefully maintained to dilute the voting
    
    strength of Appellants and deprive them of their rights secured by the First,
    
    Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,
    
    as enforced under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994 & Supp. II 1996). Appellants further
    
    alleged that the BGHA’s failure to petition for annexation discriminated against the
    
    tenants of the Okeechobee Center on the basis of race, in violation of Title VI of the
    
    Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d to 2000d-4a (1994), and its
    
    implementing regulations, 7 C.F.R. § 15.3 (1999). The district court dismissed
    
    Appellants’ claims to the extent that they relied on the First and Thirteenth
    
    Amendments, expressed its view that the remedy of forced annexation was not
    
    
          7
           On March 24, 1997, the district court granted Okeechobee tenant Charles Jackson’s
    motion to withdraw as plaintiff. Three tenants remain in the suit.
    
                                               9
    available under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and dismissed Appellants’
    
    constitutional claims without prejudice for failure to plead pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
    
    1983. Appellants subsequently filed an amended complaint.
    
          Prior to trial, each side moved for summary judgment. The City filed a motion
    
    on Appellants’ claims under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, arguing that because
    
    the Okeechobee Center did not satisfy the statutory requirements for annexation set
    
    forth in Fla. Stat. Ann. § 171.044(1) (West Supp. 1998), Appellants had no available
    
    remedy. Appellants, in turn, moved for summary judgment on their constitutional
    
    claims. On May 20, 1997, the district court granted summary judgment for Appellees
    
    on both the constitutional and Voting Rights Act claims. The court also granted
    
    summary judgment sua sponte for the BGHA on the remaining Title VI claims.
    
    Specifically, the district court held that because the Okeechobee Center was not
    
    “contiguous” to the City of Belle Glade, Florida law prohibited its annexation; that
    
    race discrimination did not cause the City’s refusal to annex the Okeechobee Center;
    
    that judicially-compelled annexation was not an available remedy under the Voting
    
    Rights Act; that an injunction prohibiting the City from discriminating in future
    
    annexation decisions was not sufficiently specific to comply with Federal Rule of
    
    Civil Procedure 65(d); and, lastly, that there was no meaningful relief available for
    
    Appellants’ Title VI claim because, even if the district court ordered the BGHA to
    
    petition for annexation, Florida law still prohibited the City from granting the request.
    
                                               10
    See Burton v. City of Belle Glade, 
    966 F. Supp. 1178
     (S.D. Fla. 1997). This appeal
    
    followed.
    
    
    
                                              II.
    
          We give plenary review to a district court’s grant of summary judgment. See
    
    Harris v. Shelby County Bd. of Educ., 
    99 F.3d 1078
    , 1082 (11th Cir. 1996). The
    
    governing standard is by now well understood. Summary judgment is proper if “the
    
    pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
    
    with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
    
    and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ.
    
    P. 56(c). As we have explained:
    
                 In assessing whether the movant has met this burden, the
                 courts should view the evidence and all factual inferences
                 therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing
                 the motion. All reasonable doubts about the facts should be
                 resolved in favor of the non-movant. If the record presents
                 factual issues, the court must not decide them; it must deny
                 the motion and proceed to trial. Summary judgment may
                 be inappropriate even where the parties agree on the basic
                 facts, but disagree about the inferences that should be
                 drawn from these facts. If reasonable minds might differ
                 on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then the
                 court should deny summary judgment.
    
    Clemons v. Dougherty County, 
    684 F.2d 1365
    , 1368-69 (11th Cir. 1982) (citations
    
    omitted). To withstand a summary judgment motion, the non-moving party must
    
    
                                              11
    establish that, based on the evidence in the record, there can be more than one
    
    reasonable conclusion as to the proper verdict. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
    
    
    477 U.S. 242
    , 250 (1986). Consequently, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of
    
    evidence in support of the [non-movant’s] position will be insufficient; there must be
    
    evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Id. at 252;
    
    see also Walker v. Darby, 
    911 F.2d 1573
    , 1577 (11th Cir. 1990).
    
    
    
                                                  A.
    
                 Section 1983: Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment Claims
    
           Appellants8 contend that the BGHA’s refusal to petition for annexation of the
    
    Okeechobee Center and the City’s failure to annex the Center denied them the equal
    
    
           8
            Both groups of Appellants -- the black citizens and registered voters of Belle Glade
    and the black, non-Belle-Glade-citizen tenants of the Okeechobee Center -- make the same
    claims. We observe at the outset, however, that in a very real sense these claims are distinct.
    The Okeechobee Center tenants’ claimed injury stems from an allegedly improper racial
    motive in Appellees’ annexation decisions concerning the Okeechobee Center. These
    allegations give rise to a traditional race discrimination claim under the Equal Protection
    Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and a vote denial claim under the Fifteenth
    Amendment. In contrast, we construe the citizens of Belle Glade to complain that the BGHA
    and the City purposefully employed discriminatory practices to dilute the voting strength of
    black citizens within the City’s boundaries. These discriminatory practices, if proved,
    allegedly injured Belle Glade citizens because they enjoyed the right to vote in Belle Glade.
    Because the Okeechobee Center tenants never possessed a right to vote within the City,
    Appellants’ constitutional vote dilution claim may only be premised on the injuries of the
    Belle Glade citizens. See Socialist Workers Party v. Leahy, 
    145 F.3d 1240
    , 1244 (11th Cir.
    1998). However, because vote dilution, vote denial, and traditional race discrimination
    claims arising under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments all require proof of
    intentional discrimination, see infra, we address Appellants’ § 1983 claims as one.
    
                                                  12
    protection of the laws and deprived them of the right to vote on account of race, both
    
    by denying their right to vote and by diluting their voting strength, in violation of the
    
    Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.9 Section 1983 provides a cause of action for
    
    constitutional violations committed under color of state law.10 To prevail, plaintiffs
    
           9
            The Supreme Court has not yet determined conclusively whether vote dilution is
    prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, or both. See Reno v.
    Bossier Parish Sch. Bd., 
    520 U.S. 471
    , 495 (1997) (Breyer, J., concurring in part and
    concurring in judgment) (citing Rogers v. Lodge, 
    458 U.S. 613
    , 617 (1982) (Fourteenth
    Amendment covers vote dilution claims); City of Mobile v. Bolden, 
    446 U.S. 55
    , 66 (1980)
    (plurality opinion) (same), and comparing Mobile, 446 U.S. at 62-63 (intentional vote
    dilution may be illegal under Fifteenth Amendment), and Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 
    364 U.S. 339
    , 346 (1960) (Fifteenth Amendment covers municipal boundaries drawn to exclude
    blacks), with Mobile, 446 U.S. at 84 n.3 (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment) (Mobile
    plurality said that Fifteenth Amendment does not reach vote dilution); Voinovich v. Quilter,
    
    507 U.S. 146
    , 159 (1993) (“This Court has not decided whether the Fifteenth Amendment
    applies to vote-dilution claims . . . .”); Shaw v. Reno, 
    509 U.S. 630
    , 645 (1993) (endorsing
    the Gomillion concurrence’s Fourteenth Amendment approach); Beer v. United States, 
    425 U.S. 130
    , 142 n.14 (1976)). Both Amendments, however, require proof of discriminatory
    purpose. See Bossier Parish, 520 U.S. at 481 (“Since 1980, a plaintiff bringing a
    constitutional vote dilution challenge, whether under the Fourteenth or Fifteenth
    Amendment, has been required to establish that the state or political subdivision acted with
    a discriminatory purpose.”); Lucas v. Townsend, 
    967 F.2d 549
    , 551 (11th Cir. 1992) (per
    curiam) (holding that claims of vote dilution under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment
    require proof of “a racially discriminatory purpose chargeable to the state”). Therefore, we
    decline to address this distinction.
            Appellants’ initial complaint also alleged vote dilution claims under the First and
    Thirteenth Amendments. Appellants argue that the district court erred in granting Appellees’
    motion to dismiss those claims. But since the First and Thirteenth Amendments afford no
    greater protection for voting rights claims than that already provided by the Fourteenth and
    Fifteenth Amendments, see Washington v. Finlay, 
    664 F.2d 913
    , 927-28 (4th Cir. 1981);
    Lucas v. Townsend, 
    783 F. Supp. 605
    , 618 (M.D. Ga. 1992), aff’d on other grounds, 
    967 F.2d 549
     (11th Cir. 1992), we conclude that the district court did not err in dismissing these
    claims.
           10
             Section 1983 provides, in relevant part, that “[e]very person who, under color of any
    statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be
    subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or
    
                                                   13
    must demonstrate both that the defendants deprived them of a right secured under the
    
    Constitution or federal law and that the deprivation occurred under color of state law.
    
    See Arrington v. Cobb County, 
    139 F.3d 865
    , 872 (11th Cir. 1998). Because
    
    Appellees concede they acted under color of state law, we need only address whether
    
    Appellees acted in violation of the Constitution.
    
           Section 1983 claims, moreover, are governed by the forum state’s residual
    
    personal injury statute of limitations. See Owens v. Okure, 
    488 U.S. 235
    , 249-50
    
    (1989); Wilson v. Garcia, 
    471 U.S. 261
    , 276 (1985). Specifically, a plaintiff must
    
    commence a § 1983 claim arising in Florida within four years of the allegedly
    
    unconstitutional or otherwise illegal act. See Baker v. Gulf & Western Indus., Inc.,
    
    
    850 F.2d 1480
    , 1483 (11th Cir. 1988). The City’s 1995 decision to deny Appellants’
    
    request for annexation of the Okeechobee Center is the only act that occurred during
    
    the limitations period. Therefore, Appellants’ § 1983 claims rest solely on the
    
    constitutionality of that decision.
    
    
    immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an
    action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
           Early in this litigation, Appellees moved to dismiss Appellants’ First Amended
    Complaint on the ground that they improperly pleaded claims directly under the Constitution.
    The district court granted this motion without prejudice and Appellants filed a Second
    Amended Complaint. Appellants now argue that the district court erred in dismissing their
    first complaint. However, because Appellants were made whole by filing a second
    complaint, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), this issue is now moot. See Purcell v. BankAtlantic Fin.
    Corp., 
    85 F.3d 1508
    , 1511 n. 3 (11th Cir. 1996) (“‘Central to a finding of mootness is a
    determination by an appellate court that it cannot grant effective judicial relief.’”) (quoting
    In re Club Assocs., 
    956 F.2d 1065
    , 1069 (11th Cir.1992)).
    
                                                  14
          Moreover, to establish a violation of either the Equal Protection Clause of the
    
    Fourteenth Amendment or the Fifteenth Amendment, Appellants must show that the
    
    City’s decision or act had a discriminatory purpose and effect. See Reno v. Bossier
    
    Parish Sch. Bd., 
    520 U.S. 471
    , 481 (1997); Village of Arlington Heights v.
    
    Metropolitan Hous. Dev. Corp., 
    429 U.S. 252
    , 265 (1977); Washington v. Davis, 
    426 U.S. 229
    , 241-42 (1976). Discriminatory purpose may be established by proof that
    
    the City used race as a substantial or motivating factor in its annexation decisions and
    
    practices. See Arlington Heights, 429 U.S. at 265-66. If the City’s annexation
    
    decisions created an express racial classification, no inquiry into discriminatory
    
    purpose is necessary. See Shaw v. Reno, 
    509 U.S. 630
    , 642 (1993) (citing Personnel
    
    Administrator v. Feeney, 
    442 U.S. 256
    , 272 (1979)). However, once a discriminatory
    
    purpose is established, the burden shifts to Appellees to prove that, at the time of the
    
    discriminatory act, the same decision would have been made for a legitimate reason.
    
    See Mount Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 
    429 U.S. 274
    , 287 (1977).
    
          We evaluate all available direct and circumstantial evidence of intent in
    
    determining whether a discriminatory purpose was a motivating factor in a particular
    
    decision. In Arlington Heights, the Supreme Court suggested that relevant evidentiary
    
    factors include substantial disparate impact, a history of discriminatory official
    
    actions, procedural and substantive departures from the norms generally followed by
    
    the decision-maker, and the legislative and administrative history of the decision. See
    
                                              15
    429 U.S. at 265-69. Moreover, we have repeatedly recognized that evidence of “‘[t]he
    
    historical background of the decision’” is relevant to the issue of discriminatory intent.
    
    Williams v. City of Dothan, 
    745 F.2d 1406
    , 1415 (11th Cir. 1984) (quoting Arlington
    
    Heights, 429 U.S. at 267); see also Elston v. Talladega County Bd. of Educ., 
    997 F.2d 1394
    , 1406 (11th Cir. 1993) (holding that discriminatory intent may be established by,
    
    among other things, a history of discriminatory official actions); Ammons v. Dade
    
    City, 
    783 F.2d 982
    , 988 (11th Cir. 1986) (per curiam) (noting that district court
    
    “correctly relied upon a large body of constitutional jurisprudence which recognizes
    
    that the historical context of a challenged activity may constitute relevant evidence of
    
    intentional discrimination”); Dowdell v. City of Apopka, 
    698 F.2d 1181
    , 1186 (11th
    
    Cir. 1983) (recognizing that historical pattern of decision-making was relevant to
    
    district court’s finding of discriminatory intent).           Indeed, all “actions having
    
    foreseeable and anticipated disparate impact are relevant evidence to prove the
    
    ultimate fact, forbidden purpose.” Columbus Bd. of Educ. v. Penick, 
    443 U.S. 449
    ,
    
    464 (1979).11
    
           11
             Appellants suggest that the district court erred in excluding relevant evidence that
    occurred outside of the statute of limitations period. Specifically, Appellants assert that the
    four-year statute of limitations should not operate to exclude relevant historical evidence of
    past discriminatory practices. To the extent the district court suggested that it would exclude
    evidence of discrimination that preceded the 1995 act at issue -- the only act occurring within
    the limitations period -- we believe that the district court erred. See City of Dothan, 745 F.2d
    at 1415-16 (holding that district court erred in excluding evidence of municipal decisions that
    occurred outside the statute of limitations period on ground that evidence was relevant to
    issue of defendant’s later discriminatory intent). However, because the district court did, in
    
                                                  16
           At the heart of their appeal, Appellants argue that the district court erred in
    
    holding that no reasonable jury could conclude that race was a substantial or
    
    motivating factor in the City’s 1995 annexation decision. Appellants point to three
    
    categories of evidence supporting a claim of intentional race discrimination: first,
    
    Appellants assert that since there was direct evidence of a de jure racial classification
    
    in Belle Glade housing before 1977, any inquiry into Appellees’ discriminatory intent
    
    is unnecessary; second, they suggest that the bizarre shape of the City’s municipal
    
    boundaries is circumstantial evidence of improper racial motive under Shaw v. Reno,
    
    
    509 U.S. 630
     (1993); and third, they contend that they have presented substantial
    
    circumstantial evidence of the City’s discriminatory intent in failing to annex the
    
    Okeechobee Center. Taken together, they argue, these categories of evidence raise a
    
    genuine issue of material fact as to whether race was a substantial or motivating factor
    
    in the City’s 1995 decision to refuse annexation of the Okeechobee Center. We are
    
    not persuaded by Appellants’ arguments either standing alone or in concert, but
    
    consider each in turn.
    
                                                  1.
    
                                  De Jure Racial Classification
    
    
    
    
    fact, consider all of Appellants’ evidence, see Burton, 966 F. Supp. at 1182, and because an
    examination of all of the proffered evidence does not alter the result, any error plainly would
    be harmless.
    
                                                  17
          Appellants first argue that the City’s annexation of the Osceola Center
    
    constituted the enforcement of a de jure racial classification. Because Belle Glade
    
    ordinances required racial segregation in residential housing, Appellants contend that
    
    the City’s annexation of the Osceola Center back in 1961 constituted the enforcement
    
    of a de jure racial classification. Appellants, therefore, assert that the district court
    
    erred in failing to engage in the stringent review required for cases involving prior de
    
    jure segregation. This claim is unavailing.
    
          The central purpose of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
    
    Amendment is to prohibit states from discriminating against individuals on the basis
    
    of race. Plainly, where the racial classification appears on the face of the statute, no
    
    inquiry into legislative purpose is necessary. See Shaw, 509 U.S. at 642 (citing
    
    Feeney, 442 U.S. at 272). Such racial classifications are presumptively invalid and
    
    can only survive constitutional scrutiny if they are justified by a compelling state
    
    interest and are narrowly tailored to serve that interest. See id. at 643. Moreover,
    
    Appellants argue that defendants should carry an even greater burden in this case, just
    
    as they do in the context of higher education. See United States v. Fordice, 
    505 U.S. 717
    , 727-32 (1992). Where there is evidence that a current practice is “traceable” to
    
    or is “rooted” in a prior policy of segregation in education, defendants can only avoid
    
    liability by proving that the current policy does not have “continuing segregative
    
    effects or, even if it does, that there exists no practicable and educationally sound
    
                                               18
    means of remedying any such effects.” Knight v. Alabama, 
    14 F.3d 1534
    , 1550 (11th
    
    Cir. 1994).
    
          In this case, however, the district court did not err in failing to require Appellees
    
    to prove that they attempted to remedy the effects of prior de jure segregation. In the
    
    first place, Appellants can point to no court that has ever applied Fordice outside of
    
    the education setting. Indeed, given the unique nature of school desegregation, we
    
    hesitate to extend Fordice to a property annexation case. But even if we assume,
    
    arguendo, that the analysis applies, Appellants have failed to demonstrate that the
    
    City’s 1995 annexation decision is, in any way, “traceable” to or “rooted” in past de
    
    jure segregation. Knight, 14 F.3d at 1540-41 (noting that plaintiff has burden of proof
    
    to show that challenged policy is “traceable” to past segregation). The City’s 1961
    
    decision to annex the Osceola Center, the white housing project, and the concomitant
    
    “determination” not to annex the Okeechobee Center, the black housing project, when
    
    the BGHA only petitioned for Osceola’s annexation, neither created a racial
    
    classification nor enforced the City’s segregation laws. Although the two centers were
    
    segregated by race in 1961, on this record there is simply no evidence that residential
    
    segregation laws dictated which center the City annexed, or, indeed, that race played
    
    any role in the process. Moreover, there is no evidence that the City had any policy,
    
    either in 1961 or later, of making annexation decisions on the basis of the race of the
    
    residents in the proposed annexation areas. It is even unclear on this record that the
    
                                               19
    City ever entertained a request to annex the Okeechobee Center in 1961, or, for that
    
    matter, that the Okeechobee Center was similarly situated to the Osceola Center, let
    
    alone evidence showing that the decision to annex the Osceola Center was somehow
    
    based on the race of its occupants. Non-discriminatory reasons were offered to
    
    explain the Osceola annexation -- including evidence that the BGHA requested
    
    annexation to provide City police protection to the residents due to ongoing threats
    
    against the center’s manager -- and Appellants have presented nothing to rebut this.
    
    While it is undeniably true that the two centers were segregated by race in 1961,
    
    Appellants notably have been unable to draw some connection between that de jure
    
    policy and the decision to annex the Osceola Center. Accordingly, we cannot find that
    
    the City enforced any policy of racial classification in its annexation decisions.
    
    Absent such evidence, the district court did not err in refusing to require Appellees to
    
    present evidence of their efforts to remedy prior de jure segregation.
    
          The very most Appellants could argue is that the existence of the City’s
    
    segregation ordinances may have raised an inference of discriminatory intent back in
    
    1961. The existence of these ordinances, however, which were abolished more than
    
    twenty years before the 1995 decision, can in no way transform this cause of action
    
    into a challenge to the enforcement of a racial classification or de jure segregation.
    
                                               2.
    
                                    Municipal Boundaries
    
                                              20
          Appellants also suggest that the municipal boundaries of the City of Belle Glade
    
    are so bizarre as to raise an inference of racially discriminatory intent under the racial
    
    gerrymandering case of Shaw v. Reno, 
    509 U.S. 630
     (1993). Appellants assert that
    
    the City’s decision to annex State Road Number 80 in 1965 and its deliberate decision
    
    not to annex the black population centers on either side of the highway, rendered the
    
    boundaries of Belle Glade bizarre. They argue, therefore, that this annexation is
    
    facially suspect and triggers strict scrutiny under the Fourteenth Amendment, and that
    
    the district court again erred in failing to shift the burden to Appellees to produce
    
    evidence that the municipal boundary was shaped by decisions that were narrowly
    
    tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest. We find this argument
    
    similarly unpersuasive.
    
          To establish that a districting scheme amounts to impermissible racial
    
    gerrymandering, a plaintiff bears the burden of proving that race was the predominant
    
    factor in the legislature’s decision either through “‘circumstantial evidence of a
    
    district’s shape and demographics’ or through ‘more direct evidence going to
    
    legislative purpose.’” Shaw v. Hunt, 
    517 U.S. 899
    , 905 (1996) [hereinafter Shaw II]
    
    (quoting Miller v. Johnson, 
    515 U.S. 900
    , 916 (1995)). As the Supreme Court
    
    explained in Miller:
    
                 Shape is relevant not because bizarreness is a necessary
                 element of the constitutional wrong or a threshold
                 requirement of proof, but because it may be persuasive
    
                                               21
                  circumstantial evidence that race for its own sake, and not
                  other districting principles, was the legislature’s dominant
                  and controlling rationale in drawing its district lines.
    
    515 U.S. at 913. A plaintiff will not prevail, however, simply by pointing to the
    
    bizarre shape of a legislative district where the district lines are facially race neutral.
    
    Under those circumstances, “a more searching inquiry is necessary before strict
    
    scrutiny can be found applicable.” Bush v. Vera, 
    517 U.S. 952
    , 958 (1996) (plurality
    
    opinion) (quotations omitted). Moreover, a state may defeat an allegation of racial
    
    gerrymandering by establishing that race-neutral considerations motivated the
    
    redistricting legislation and that those considerations were not “subordinated” to race.
    
    Miller, 515 U.S. at 916. Once a plaintiff proves that race was the predominant factor,
    
    however, the redistricting decision then becomes subject to strict scrutiny: it must be
    
    justified by a compelling state interest and be narrowly tailored to achieve that
    
    interest. See Shaw II, 517 U.S. at 908 (citing Miller, 515 U.S. at 920).
    
           Appellants’ Shaw argument faces multiple infirmities.12 To begin with, as far
    
    as we can discern, no court has ever applied Shaw outside the racial gerrymandering
    
    
    
           12
             It is unclear whether all of the Appellants have standing to bring a Fourteenth
    Amendment claim under Shaw. In United States v. Hays, 
    515 U.S. 737
     (1995), the Supreme
    Court held that plaintiffs who reside in a racially gerrymandered district have standing to
    challenge a legislature’s reapportionment scheme. See id. at 745. For non-resident plaintiffs
    to have standing, however, the Court noted that they would have to show specific evidence
    that they were personally subjected to a racial classification. See id. Here, the non-Belle-
    Glade-citizen Appellants would have to prove that they personally were not annexed into the
    City on the basis of their race.
    
                                                 22
    context.   Moreover, Shaw and other racial gerrymandering cases are legally
    
    distinguishable from the instant case. In racial gerrymandering cases, plaintiffs
    
    typically challenge laws affirmatively enacted to alter the boundaries of voting
    
    districts. These jurisdictions are under an affirmative legal duty to alter their
    
    boundaries to reflect shifts or alterations in population. In sharp contrast, however,
    
    is a city’s right to determine if and when it will expand its municipal boundaries.
    
    Although the City of Belle Glade may well be bizarrely shaped, its contours were
    
    created over an extended time period as hundreds of individual parcels were brought
    
    into its ambit incrementally; it was not created by a single scheme designed to exclude
    
    property on the basis of race. Cf. Chen v. City of Houston, 
    9 F. Supp. 2d 745
    , 754
    
    (S.D. Tex. 1998) (refusing to apply strict scrutiny under Shaw solely based on
    
    bizarreness of city’s redistricting plan where repeated annexation, not districting
    
    decision-making, caused irregular shape of districts). Moreover, not surprisingly,
    
    Appellants have been unable to show that the annexation of any specific piece of
    
    property, including the Okeechobee Center, would make the shape of the City of Belle
    
    Glade any less “bizarre.”
    
          The central problem with Appellants’ argument is that the City’s shape has not
    
    been shown to have been created because of any affirmative annexation plan. Rather,
    
    the City’s pattern of annexation over time merely reflects the aggregation of various
    
    owners’ requests for annexation, which the City generally approves so long as the
    
                                              23
    proposed annexations satisfies the obligations of Florida law, and annexations
    
    initiated solely by the City, which also must conform to Florida law and which City
    
    voters and annex residents must approve by referendum. See Fla. Stat. Ann. §§
    
    171.044(1), 171.0413. Absent some other evidence, such as the circumstances
    
    surrounding a multitude of other annexation decisions, the specific racial composition
    
    of each of these areas, whether the unincorporated areas ever requested annexation,
    
    or perhaps some comparison of the shapes of other Florida municipalities, we cannot
    
    find that the municipal boundaries alone raise an inference of the City’s racially
    
    discriminatory intent. Thus, whether or not a Shaw analysis could apply in the context
    
    of municipal property annexation, the simple fact is that this record is wholly
    
    insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact to support a distinct claim under
    
    Shaw.
    
                                               3.
    
                         Circumstantial Evidence of Discrimination
    
            Finally, Appellants claim that the circumstantial evidence, when weighed
    
    together, establishes the City’s discriminatory motive or intent in refusing to annex
    
    the Okeechobee Center in 1995. Indeed, Appellants argue that the City’s annexation
    
    decisions cannot be explained in non-racial terms. Appellants, therefore, contend that
    
    the district court erred in concluding that they failed to raise a genuine issue of
    
    material fact as to whether race was a substantial or motivating factor behind the
    
                                              24
    City’s 1995 decision to refuse annexation of the Okeechobee Center. See Arlington
    
    Heights, 429 U.S. at 265-66. Appellants also assert that the district court further erred
    
    in failing to shift the burden to Appellees to prove that, at the time of the
    
    discriminatory act, the same decision would have been made for a legitimate reason.
    
    See Mount Healthy, 429 U.S. at 287. Appellants are incorrect on both counts.
    
          Turning to the circumstantial evidence surrounding the 1995 decision,
    
    Appellants contend that two additional pieces of evidence establish the City’s
    
    discriminatory purpose. Appellants argue that the City’s justification of costs in
    
    refusing to annex the Okeechobee Center raises an inference of race discrimination
    
    because the City does not usually consider costs when deciding whether to annex
    
    property. Appellants also assert that the City’s view that Florida law prohibited
    
    annexation of the Okeechobee Center was a mere pretext for the City’s discriminatory
    
    purpose. Neither argument raises an inference of discriminatory intent.
    
          First, the City’s reliance on cost as a justification for refusing to annex the
    
    Okeechobee Center in 1995 does not raise a genuine issue of material fact as to the
    
    City’s allegedly improper racial motive. Appellants have offered no evidence to
    
    support their contention that the City does not usually consider cost in making
    
    annexation decisions. However, even if we were to assume, arguendo, that some
    
    disparity exists, we fail to see how reliance on cost here raises an inference of race
    
    animus. As the Annexation Committee found back in 1984, providing the necessary
    
                                               25
    municipal services to the Okeechobee Center would be a very expensive proposition
    
    for the City of Belle Glade. Moreover, because the property is exempt from ad
    
    valorem taxes, the City would enjoy little revenue to offset this expense. Thus, the
    
    City’s reliance on costs was altogether reasonable under the circumstances. Indeed,
    
    a Florida municipality has an obligation to its citizens to consider the economic impact
    
    of annexations.13 Therefore, we decline to accept Appellants’ suggestion that the
    
    City’s reliance on cost was a pretext for race discrimination.
    
           Second, the City’s conclusion that Florida law prohibited annexation of the
    
    Okeechobee center does not raise an inference of race discrimination. The parties do
    
    not dispute that the Okeechobee Center could only be annexed if contiguous to the
    
    City, and that its contiguity would arise only from its proximity to State Road Number
    
           13
            Section 171.021 provides:
    
                         The purposes of this act are to set forth procedures for
                  adjusting the boundaries of municipalities through annexations
                  or contractions or corporate limits and to set forth criteria for
                  determining when annexations or contractions may take place so
                  as to:
    
                          (1) Insure sound urban development and accommodation
                  to growth.
                          (2) Establish uniform legislative standards throughout the
                  state for the adjustment of municipal boundaries.
                          (3) Insure the efficient provision of urban services to
                  areas that become urban in character.
                          (4) Insure that areas are not annexed unless municipal
                  services can be provided to those areas.
    
    Fla. Stat. Ann. § 171.021.
    
                                                 26
    80, which the City annexed in 1965. Therefore, Okeechobee’s contiguity turns on
    
    whether a municipality may use a previously annexed road to gain contiguity to
    
    otherwise non-contiguous property. Florida law, however, is hotly disputed and far
    
    from settled on this question.
    
           Since 1974, Florida law has provided that an owner of reasonably compact14
    
    property that is contiguous15 to a municipality may petition for annexation. See Fla.
    
    Stat. Ann. § 171.044(1) (West Supp. 1998). In 1977, the Florida Attorney General
    
    considered whether Florida law permitted a municipality to annex property only
    
    
    
    
           14
             “‘Compactness’ means concentration of a piece of property in a single area and
    precludes any action which would create enclaves, pockets, or finger areas in serpentine
    patterns. Any annexation proceeding in any county in the state shall be designed in such a
    manner as to ensure that the area will be reasonably compact.’” Fla. Stat. Ann.
    § 171.031(12).
           15
              “‘Contiguous’ means that a substantial part of a boundary of the territory sought to
    be annexed by the municipality is coterminous with a part of the boundary of the
    municipality. . . . However, nothing herein shall be construed to allow local rights-of-way,
    utility easements, railroad rights-of-way, or like entities to be annexed in a corridor fashion
    to gain contiguity . . . .” Fla. Stat. Ann. § 171.031(11).
            Prior to 1975, section 171.031(11) stated, in relevant part: “Local rights-of-way,
    utility easements, or railroad rights-of-way shall not be annexed in a corridor fashion to gain
    contiguity nor shall such activity be deemed to establish the contiguity required under this
    act.” 1974 Fla. Laws ch. 74-190, § 1 (emphasis added). Since the underscored language was
    deleted in 1975, see 1975 Fla. Laws ch. 75-297, Appellants contend that the statute only
    prohibits annexation of roads to gain contiguity, but it does not bar annexation of property
    contiguous to a previously annexed road. Even assuming, arguendo, that Appellants’
    statutory interpretation is correct -- and we have no need to resolve this question of Florida
    law today -- the amended language does not establish that the City’s statutory interpretation
    was unreasonable.
    
                                                  27
    contiguous to the municipality by virtue of a previously annexed road.16 See 1977 Fla.
    
    Op. Atty. Gen. 35. Recognizing that no Florida appellate court had considered the
    
    issue, the Attorney General concluded that a parcel may not be voluntarily annexed
    
    if it is only contiguous to the City by virtue of a previously annexed highway because
    
    such annexation would violate both Florida’s contiguity requirement and its
    
    prohibition against the creation of enclaves. See id. Then, in 1985, the Attorney
    
    General considered whether a municipality could voluntarily annex property
    
    contiguous on one side to a previously annexed, 125 foot-wide corridor of
    
    unimproved land, but otherwise surrounded by unincorporated property. See 1985
    
    Fla. Op. Atty. Gen. 163. Although concluding that the city could not voluntarily
    
    annex the parcel because it would result in the creation of a prohibited enclave, the
    
    Attorney General found that Florida’s contiguity requirement would not prohibit the
    
    municipality from using the corridor of unimproved land to gain contiguity because
    
    the statute did not apply to property annexed before 1974. Id. The Attorney General,
    
    however, never reconciled his finding of contiguity in the 1985 opinion with the
    
    conclusion he had reached eight years earlier.
    
          Based on this undeniably conflicting authority, we conclude that the City’s
    
    
          16
            Although Florida Opinions of the Attorney General are not binding on this Court,
    they “are entitled to careful consideration and generally should be regarded as highly
    persuasive” of matters of Florida law. State v. Family Bank of Hallandale, 
    623 So. 2d 474
    ,
    478 (Fla. 1993).
    
                                               28
    reliance on the 1974 annexation statute as a justification for the denial of Peterson’s
    
    request to annex the Okeechobee Center does not raise a genuine issue of material fact
    
    as to the City’s discriminatory intent in 1995. Even if we were to determine today that
    
    Florida law permits annexation -- and the law is anything but clear as to this matter --
    
    we would still conclude that the City’s interpretation was an altogether reasonable one
    
    given the plainly conflicting Attorney General opinions.17 In short, the City’s reliance
    
    on the 1974 annexation statute cannot fairly be taken as being a pretext for race
    
    discrimination.
    
           The only other evidence presented by Appellants relates to the historical
    
    background to the City’s 1995 decision. However, “the historical background for a
    
    given decision is only one factor relative to intent. It does not, by itself, compel [a
    
    court] to find a discriminatory purpose behind every statute passed during regrettable
    
    periods of [a state’s] past.” Hall v. Holder, 
    117 F.3d 1222
    , 1226-27 (11th Cir. 1997).
    
    Nevertheless, Appellants point to three pieces of historical evidence. First, the City’s
    
    
    
           17
             Indeed, the district court determined that the City’s interpretation was correct as a
    matter of statutory construction. See Burton, 966 F. Supp. at 1183. According to the district
    court, the propriety of using a road annexation to gain contiguity cannot turn on the
    subjective intent of the municipality in initially annexing the road. The court reasoned that
    the Florida legislature could not have intended for so strange a construction. See id. at 1183-
    84. However, we need not reach the merits of this issue to resolve the instant case.
            Concluding that the proposed annexation of the Okeechobee Center would have been
    illegal under Florida law since 1974, the district court also held that this statute was the
    intervening cause of Appellants’ injuries. See Burton, 966 F. Supp. at 1183-84. Again, it
    is unnecessary to reach the merits of this issue.
    
                                                  29
    housing ordinances mandated residential segregation until 1963. Second, the Osceola
    
    and Okeechobee Centers were segregated by race until 1977. Lastly, the BGHA failed
    
    to petition the Okeechobee Center in 1961 and 1973 and the City failed to annex in
    
    1961, 1971, and 1985. This evidence is far too remote and attenuated to be probative
    
    of any discriminatory purpose in 1995. Simply put, we fail to see how evidence of
    
    past residential segregation in housing, which ended almost twenty years before the
    
    decision at issue, and which is wholly unconnected to any annexation decision, or a
    
    prior refusal to annex standing alone establishes any intent, let alone a discriminatory
    
    one, in 1995. As we said in Holder, “past discrimination cannot, in the manner of
    
    original sin, condemn governmental action that is not itself unlawful.” Id. (quoting
    
    Mobile, 446 U.S. at 74); see also Freeman v. Pitts, 
    503 U.S. 467
    , 495-96 (1992).
    
    Appellants’ historical evidence does not raise a genuine issue of material fact as to
    
    whether the City’s 1995 decision to refuse annexation of the Okeechobee Center was
    
    motivated by race.
    
          On the basis of this record, viewing all of the circumstantial evidence and
    
    drawing all inferences in the light most favorable to Appellants, we conclude that
    
    Appellants have failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the City’s
    
    1995 decision was racially motivated. No jury could reasonably find for Appellants
    
    based on this record. In the first place, the City’s reliance on cost -- a possible
    
    expense to the City of close to one million dollars -- was an altogether reasonable
    
                                               30
    basis on which to refuse annexation. Second, the City’s reliance on Florida’s
    
    contiguity requirement to deny annexation was likewise reasonable given the
    
    conflicting authority in Florida law, and in no way supports an inference of pretext for
    
    race discrimination. Lastly, Appellants’ historical evidence, which at most arguably
    
    raised an inference of the City’s discriminatory intent in the 1960s and 1970s, offers
    
    no plausible connection between any conceivable discriminatory intent rooted in the
    
    past and the 1995 act at issue today. Taken together, this evidence does not raise a
    
    genuine issue of material fact as to the City’s discriminatory intent in 1995.
    
          Finally, the district court did not err in failing to consider the second prong of
    
    the Mount Healthy test. If Appellants cannot first prove that race was a motivating
    
    factor, there is no basis for shifting the burden to the City to determine whether, by a
    
    preponderance of the evidence, it would have made the same decision notwithstanding
    
    its racial motivation. See Mount Healthy, 429 U.S. at 287. Accordingly, we hold that
    
    the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees on
    
    Appellants’ § 1983 claims.
    
    
    
                                              B.
    
                         Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
    
          Appellants also contend that the BGHA’s refusal to petition and the City’s
    
    failure to annex the Okeechobee Center violated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act
    
                                              31
    of 1965. Section 2, 42 U.S.C. § 1973, “was designed as a means of eradicating voting
    
    practices that ‘minimize or cancel out the voting strength and political effectiveness
    
    of minority groups.’” Reno v. Bossier Parish Sch. Bd., 
    520 U.S. 471
    , 479 (1997)
    
    (quoting S. Rep. No. 97-417, at 28 (1982), reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. 177, 205).
    
    It “prohibits all forms of voting discrimination.” Thornburg v. Gingles, 
    478 U.S. 30
    ,
    
    45 n.10 (1986) (citing S. Rep. No. 97-417 at 30, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. at
    
    207-08). Specifically, two distinct types of discriminatory practices and procedures
    
    are covered under section 2: those that result in “vote denial” and those that result in
    
    “vote dilution.”
    
           In 1982, Congress amended section 2 to clarify that a plaintiff may establish a
    
    violation by a showing of discriminatory results alone.18 See Voting Rights Act
    
    Amendments of 1982, Pub. L. No. 97-205, § 3, 96 Stat. 131, 134 (1982). As
    
    amended, section 2 states:
    
                         (a) No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting
                  or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or
                  applied by any State or political subdivision in a manner
                  which results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any
                  citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or
                  color, or in contravention of the guarantees set forth in
    
    
    
           18
            This amendment superceded the Supreme Court’s decision in City of Mobile v.
    Bolden, 
    446 U.S. 55
    , 61-62 (1980) (plurality opinion), which had held that both the Fifteenth
    Amendment and section 2 of the Voting Rights Act require proof of intentional
    discrimination.
    
                                                 32
                  section 1973b(f)(2)19 of this title, as provided in subsection
                  (b) of this section.
    
                         (b) A violation of subsection (a) of this section is
                  established if, based on the totality of the circumstances, it
                  is shown that the political processes leading to nomination
                  or election in the State or political subdivision are not
                  equally open to participation by members of a class of
                  citizens protected by subsection (a) of this section in that its
                  members have less opportunity than other members of the
                  electorate to participate in the political process and to elect
                  representatives of their choice. The extent to which
                  members of a protected class have been elected to office in
                  the State or political subdivision is one circumstance which
                  may be considered: Provided, That nothing in this section
                  establishes a right to have members of a protected class
                  elected in numbers equal to their proportion in the
                  population.
    
    42 U.S.C. § 1973(a), (b). Subsection (b) has come to be known as the “results test”
    
    because it seeks to measure the effect of vote dilution.20
    
           19
             Section 1973b(f)(2) provides: “No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or
    standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political
    subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote because
    he is a member of a language minority group.” 42 U.S.C. § 1973b(f)(2) (1994).
           20
             A Senate Report accompanying the 1982 amendment sets forth “‘typical factors’”
    that may show a violation of section 2 under this test. Gingles, 478 U.S. at 36 (quoting S.
    Rep. No. 97-417 at 28-29, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 206-207). These factors
    include:
    
                          “1. the extent of any history of official discrimination in
                  the state or political subdivision that touched the right of the
                  members of the minority group to register, to vote, or otherwise
                  to participate in the democratic process;
    
                         2. the extent to which voting in the elections of the state
                  or political subdivision is racially polarized;
    
                                                  33
          Appellants have alleged claims of both vote denial and vote dilution.21 The
    
    
                        3. the extent to which the state or political subdivision
                 has used unusually large election districts, majority vote
                 requirements, anti-single shot provisions, or other voting
                 practices or procedures that may enhance the opportunity for
                 discrimination against the minority group;
    
                       4. if there is a candidate slating process, whether the
                 members of the minority group have been denied access to that
                 process;
    
                        5. the extent to which members of the minority group in
                 the state or political subdivision bear the effects of
                 discrimination in such areas as education, employment and
                 health, which hinder their ability to participate effectively in the
                 political process;
    
                       6. whether political campaigns have been characterized
                 by overt or subtle racial appeals; [and]
    
                       7. the extent to which members of the minority group
                 have been elected to public office in the jurisdiction.
    
                        Additional factors that in some cases have had probative
                 value as part of plaintiffs’ evidence to establish a violation are:
    
                               whether there is a significant lack of
                        responsiveness on the part of elected officials to
                        the particularized needs of the members of the
                        minority group [and]
    
                               whether the policy underlying the state or
                        political subdivision’s use of such voting
                        qualification, prerequisite to voting, or standard,
                        practice or procedure is tenuous.”
    
    Id. at 36-37 (quoting S. Rep. No. 97-417 at 28-29, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 206-
    07). However, “‘there is no requirement that any particular number of factors be proved, or
    that a majority of them point one way or the other.’” Id. at 45 (quoting S. Rep. No. 97-417
    at 29, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 206-07).
    
                                                 34
    district court, however, elected not to reach the merits of either of Appellant’s section
    
    2 claims. Rather, the district court granted Appellees’ motion for summary judgment
    
    explaining that mandatory annexation is not an available remedy under the Voting
    
    Rights Act. The district court also considered each of the required factors in a vote
    
    dilution claim, see infra II.B.2, and concluded that it doubted whether Appellants had
    
    even made a prima facie showing under section 2. See Burton, 966 F. Supp. at 1186
    
    n.10. After thoroughly searching this record, we likewise conclude that Appellants
    
    have failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to either vote denial or vote
    
    dilution under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.22 On the record presented, we agree
    
    with the district court that court-ordered annexation is not an appropriate remedy to
    
           21
             Appellants’ vote dilution claim, we believe, may be premised only upon the claimed
    injuries of Belle Glade’s black citizens. This is true because only those who enjoy the right
    to vote in Belle Glade may have their voting strength diluted by the City’s annexation
    decisions. In contrast, Appellants’ vote denial claim may only arise from injuries of black
    tenants of the Okeechobee Center. See supra note 8.
           22
             We need not reach the question of whether a challenge to a city’s failure to annex
    adjacent property is cognizable under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. In Perkins v.
    Matthews, the Supreme Court held that municipal annexation is a “‘standard, practice or
    procedure with respect to voting’” that is subject to preclearance under section 5 of the
    Voting Rights Act. 
    400 U.S. 379
    , 388 (1971) (quoting Voting Rights Act of 1965 § 5, 42
    U.S.C. § 1973c). Sections 2 and 5, however, “combat different evils and . . . impose very
    different duties upon the States.” See Bossier Parish, 
    520 U.S. 471
    , 477 (1997). We only
    assume, arguendo, that the City of Belle Glade’s refusal to annex the Okeechobee Center is
    a “standard, practice, or procedure” that gives rise to a claim under section 2. 42 U.S.C. §
    1973(a). But see Holder v. Hall, 
    512 U.S. 874
    , 884 (1994) (opinion of Kennedy, J., joined
    by Rehnquist, C.J.) (“[W]e think it quite improbable to suggest that a § 2 dilution challenge
    could be brought to a town’s existing political boundaries (in an attempt to force it to annex
    surrounding land) by arguing that the current boundaries dilute a racial group’s voting
    strength in comparison to the proposed new boundaries.”).
    
                                                 35
    redress either of Appellants’ alleged injuries -- vote denial or vote dilution.23
    
    
    
                                                1.
    
                                          Vote Denial
    
           Vote denial occurs when a state, or here a municipality, employs a “standard,
    
    practice, or procedure” that results in the denial of the right to vote on account of race.
    
    42 U.S.C. § 1973(a). To prevail, Appellants must prove that, “under the totality of the
    
    circumstances, . . . the political processes . . . are not equally open to participation by
    
    [members of a protected class] . . . in that its members have less opportunity than other
    
    members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect
    
    representatives of their choice.” 42 U.S.C. § 1973(b). In making this determination,
    
    “a court must assess the impact of the contested structure or practice on minority
    
    electoral opportunities ‘on the basis of objective factors.’” Gingles, 478 U.S. at 44
    
    (quoting S. Rep. No. 97-417 at 27, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 205); see factors
    
    listed supra note 20.
    
           Appellants have failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether
    
    they were denied the right to vote on account of race. First, they have not offered any
    
    evidence of a “‘history of official discrimination in the state or political subdivision
    
    
           23
             We address the availability of a remedy as part of Appellants’ prima facie case of
    vote dilution.
    
                                                36
    that touched the right of the members of the minority group to register, to vote, or
    
    otherwise to participate in the democratic process.’” Gingles, 478 U.S. at 36-37
    
    (quoting S. Rep. No. 97-417 at 28, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 206). Although
    
    Appellants have presented evidence of housing segregation in Belle Glade and in the
    
    two centers, we can find no evidence of any discrimination with respect to voting.
    
    Second, there is no evidence that Belle Glade uses or used any “‘voting practices or
    
    procedures that may enhance the opportunity for discrimination against the minority
    
    group.’” Id. at 37 (quoting S. Rep. No. 97-417 at 28, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N.
    
    at 206). Third, we can find no evidence in this record that the black citizens of Belle
    
    Glade “‘bear the effects of discrimination in such areas as education, employment and
    
    health, which hinder their ability to participate effectively in the political process.’”
    
    Id. (quoting S. Rep. No. 97-417 at 28, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 206). Lastly,
    
    there is no evidence of any “‘significant lack of responsiveness on the part of elected
    
    officials to the particularized needs of the members of the minority group.’” Id.
    
    (quoting S. Rep. No. 97-417 at 28, reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 207). Nor is
    
    there any circumstantial evidence tending to suggest that the tenants of the
    
    Okeechobee Center were denied the right to vote on account of their race. Simply put,
    
    Appellants have failed to meet their burden of proving vote denial under section 2 of
    
    the Voting Rights Act.
    
                                               2.
    
                                               37
                                          Vote Dilution
    
           In contrast, vote dilution occurs when an election practice results in the dilution
    
    of minority voting strength and, thus, impairs a minority’s ability to elect the
    
    representative of its choice.
    
           In Thornburg v. Gingles, the Supreme Court identified three threshold
    
    preconditions for establishing a section 2 vote dilution claim: (1) “the minority group
    
    must be able to demonstrate that it is sufficiently large and geographically compact
    
    to constitute a majority in a single-member district”; (2) “the minority group must be
    
    able to show that it is politically cohesive”; and (3) “the minority group must be able
    
    to demonstrate that the white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it . . .
    
    usually to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate.”24 
    478 U.S. 30
    , 50-51 (1986).
    
    Proof of each of these Gingles factors is necessary, but not sufficient, to prevail under
    
    a section 2 vote dilution claim. See id. at 50. Upon successfully establishing each of
    
    the Gingles prerequisites, plaintiffs also must show that, under the totality of the
    
    
           24
             The Supreme Court has recognized that the Gingles factors “cannot be applied
    mechanically without regard to the nature of the claim.” Voinovich v. Quilter, 
    507 U.S. 146
    ,
    158 (1993). To date, the Court has applied these factors to section 2 vote dilution claims
    challenging multi-member districts, see Gingles, 478 U.S. at 48-51; single-member districts,
    see Growe v. Emison, 
    507 U.S. 25
    , 40 (1993); and majority-minority districts, see
    Voinovich, 507 U.S. at 153-54. Moreover, in Brooks v. Miller, we recently applied the
    Gingles factors to a section 2 claim challenging a majority vote requirement. See 
    158 F.3d 1230
    , 1239 (11th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 
    67 U.S.L.W. 3614
     (U.S. May 24, 1999) (No. 98-
    1521). No court has ever addressed, however, whether the Gingles factors apply to a vote
    dilution claim premised on a failure to annex. Because Appellants have failed to meet the
    three Gingles preconditions, we have no need to reach the merits of this question either.
    
                                                38
    circumstances, the challenged electoral scheme deprives them of “an equal measure
    
    of political and electoral opportunity” to participate in the political process and to elect
    
    representatives of their choosing. Johnson v. De Grandy, 
    512 U.S. 997
    , 1013 (1994).
    
    
    
           Appellants have failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to any of the
    
    three Gingles prerequisites, and, therefore, their section 2 vote dilution claim must fail
    
    as well. We address each Gingles factor in turn.
    
           We have repeatedly construed the first Gingles factor as requiring a plaintiff to
    
    demonstrate the existence of a proper remedy. See Brooks v. Miller, 
    158 F.3d 1230
    ,
    
    1239 (11th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 
    67 U.S.L.W. 3614
     (U.S. May 24, 1999) (No. 98-
    
    1521); Davis v. Chiles, 
    139 F.3d 1414
    , 1419 (11th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, ___
    
    U.S.___, 
    119 S. Ct. 1139
     (1999); Southern Christian Leadership Conference v.
    
    Sessions, 
    56 F.3d 1281
    , 1289, 1294-97 (11th Cir. 1995) (en banc); Nipper v. Smith,
    
    
    39 F.3d 1494
    , 1530-31 (11th Cir. 1994) (en banc). This requirement simply serves
    
    “‘to establish that the minority has the potential to elect a representative of its own
    
    choice from some single-member district.’” Nipper, 39 F.3d at 1530 (quoting Growe
    
    v. Emison, 
    507 U.S. 25
    , 40 (1993)). Thus, if a minority cannot establish that an
    
    alternate election scheme exists that would provide better access to the political
    
    process, then the challenged voting practice is not responsible for the claimed injury.
    
    See Gingles, 478 U.S. at 50. As we explained in Nipper:
    
                                                39
                  The inquiries into remedy and liability . . . cannot be
                  separated: A district court must determine as part of the
                  Gingles threshold inquiry whether it can fashion a
                  permissible remedy in the particular context of the
                  challenged system.
    
                  ....
    
                  . . . The absence of an available remedy is not only relevant
                  at the remedial stage of the litigation but also precludes,
                  under the totality of the circumstances inquiry, a finding of
                  liability.
    
    39 F.3d at 1530-31, 1533. Accordingly, the failure to establish the first Gingles factor
    
    -- the availability of a remedy -- is fatal to a plaintiff’s section 2 claim.
    
           Appellants argue that the district court erred in concluding that court-ordered
    
    annexation and an injunction against future discrimination in annexation decisions are
    
    not available remedies under the Voting Rights Act. We disagree. Specifically,
    
    Appellants prayed for two different forms of relief to redress their section 2 claims:
    
    an order requiring Belle Glade “to take all steps necessary to effectuate the annexation
    
    of the Okeechobee Center” into Belle Glade, and an injunction prohibiting Belle
    
    Glade “from enforcing any and all racially discriminatory policy(ies) in their decisions
    
    as to which parcels of land to annex.”25 Neither of these remedies are appropriate.
    
           Court-ordered annexation is a remedy of unprecedented scope and magnitude.
    
    
    
           25
            Notably, Appellants have not sought the wholly impracticable remedy of deannexing
    the Osceola Center, after close to forty years of Belle Glade citizenship.
    
                                                40
    Indeed, we are not surprised that Appellants cannot point to a single case, nor have we
    
    been able to find one, that has ordered so unusual a remedy. For it is one thing for a
    
    court sitting in equity to proscribe policymakers from employing unambiguously
    
    racial bases for decision-making and to order government entities to make annexation
    
    decisions on race-neutral grounds, but it is quite another to force a municipality to
    
    expand its physical boundaries by annexation. Moreover, court-ordered annexation
    
    would bypass an inherently complex political process. A municipality’s decision
    
    when and where to annex unincorporated property requires a series of carefully-
    
    calibrated political and economic judgments.             For example, a municipality
    
    undoubtedly must consider whether the property is reasonably compact and
    
    contiguous to the municipality, whether it contains a sufficient financial base, whether
    
    annexation will require a substantial increase in municipal services, and whether
    
    annexation will confer any non-pecuniary benefits to the municipality. Only after
    
    measured evaluation of these and other factors would a municipality elect to proceed
    
    with annexation. In stark contrast, court-ordered annexation circumvents this political
    
    process, and may result in numerous unintended adverse consequences.26
    
           26
             Moreover, to the extent court-ordered annexation would require the municipality to
    raise taxes in order to absorb the new property, the remedy would run up against Supreme
    Court precedent in school desegregation cases. In such cases, the Supreme Court has held
    that court-ordered tax increases contravene “the principles of comity that must govern the
    exercise of the District Court’s equitable discretion.” Missouri v. Jenkins, 
    495 U.S. 33
    , 50
    (1990); see also Spallone v. United States, 
    493 U.S. 265
    , 276 (1990) (noting that court’s
    “broad equitable powers” to remedy past discrimination are not unlimited and should “take
    
                                                41
          We do not suggest that a federal court would never have the power to order
    
    annexation. It is enough for us to conclude that the extraordinary and unprecedented
    
    remedy of court-ordered annexation is wholly inappropriate on the facts presented.
    
    This conclusion in no way rests on a determination that Florida law prohibits
    
    annexation of the Okeechobee Center. Indeed, we agree with the parties that where
    
    federal statutory or constitutional rights have been violated, state law will not impede
    
    a court from fashioning an appropriate remedy. See Armstrong v. Adams, 
    869 F.2d 410
    , 414 (8th Cir. 1989). We find on this record only that the district court did not err
    
    in concluding that court-ordered annexation was an inappropriate remedy to redress
    
    Appellants’ claims under the Voting Rights Act.
    
          Turning to Appellants’ alternate remedy, the district court correctly determined
    
    that an injunction ordering the City not to discriminate in future annexation decisions
    
    would not satisfy the specificity requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
    
    Under Rule 65(d), “[e]very order granting an injunction and every restraining order
    
    shall set forth the reasons for its issuance; shall be specific in terms; [and] shall
    
    describe in reasonable detail, and not by reference to the complaint or other document,
    
    the act or acts sought to be restrained.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d). This specificity
    
    requirement is necessary “to protect those who are enjoined ‘by informing them of
    
    
    into account the interests of state and local authorities in managing their own affairs”
    (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)).
    
                                               42
    what they are called upon to do or to refrain from doing in order to comply with the
    
    injunction or restraining order.’” Hughey v. JMS Dev. Corp., 
    78 F.3d 1523
    , 1531
    
    (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting 11A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary Kay
    
    Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2955 (2d ed. 1995) (footnotes omitted)).
    
    Thus, an injunction must “contain ‘an operative command capable of enforcement.’”
    
    Id. (quoting International Longshoremen’s Ass’n v. Philadelphia Marine Trade Ass’n,
    
    
    389 U.S. 64
    , 73-74 (1967)). For example, in Payne v. Travenol Labs., Inc., 
    565 F.2d 895
     (5th Cir. 1978), the former Fifth Circuit27 considered an injunction that prohibited
    
    “discriminating on the basis of color, race, or sex in employment practices or
    
    conditions of employment.” Id. at 897. Invalidating the injunction for failure to
    
    satisfy Rule 65(d)’s specificity requirement, the Court reasoned that where the terms
    
    of the injunction are as general as Title VII itself, the injunction does no more than
    
    instruct a defendant to “obey the law.” Id. at 898. A court is incapable of enforcing
    
    so broad and vague an injunction.
    
           Appellants seek to enjoin the City from discriminating on the basis of race in
    
    its annexation decisions. As this injunction would do no more than instruct the City
    
    to “obey the law,” we believe that it would not satisfy the specificity requirements of
    
    
    
           27
             In Bonner v. City of Prichard, 
    661 F.2d 1206
    , 1209 (11th Cir. 1981) (en banc), this
    Court adopted as binding precedent all decisions of the former Fifth Circuit handed down
    prior to October 1, 1981.
    
                                                43
    Rule 65(d) and that it would be incapable of enforcement. See Payne, 565 F.2d at
    
    898. In short, an injunction prohibiting the City from discriminating against the
    
    Okeechobee Center in future annexation decisions is not an available remedy to
    
    redress Appellants’ alleged injuries.
    
          On this record, Appellants have not established a genuine issue of material fact
    
    as to the existence of an appropriate remedy sufficient to satisfy the first Gingles
    
    prerequisite. Notwithstanding Appellants’ failure to identify a suitable remedy, “a
    
    federal court should not dismiss a meritorious constitutional claim because the
    
    complaint seeks one remedy rather than another plainly appropriate one.” Holt Civic
    
    Club v. City of Tuscaloosa, 
    439 U.S. 60
    , 65 (1978). However, we cannot conceive
    
    of an alternative remedy for Appellants’ claims. In short, we hold that Appellants
    
    cannot meet the first Gingles prerequisite.
    
          Although the absence of an available remedy is dispositive of Appellants’
    
    claim, we nonetheless consider the second and third Gingles factors. Appellant’s have
    
    similarly failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to either of these
    
    elements. The second factor requires a showing that the minority group is politically
    
    cohesive, while the third demands proof of a majority white voting bloc sufficient to
    
    defeat the minority’s preferred candidates. See Gingles, 478 U.S. at 50-51. In other
    
    words, “[p]roof of the second and third Gingles factors . . . is circumstantial evidence
    
    of racial bias operating through the electoral system to deny minority voters equal
    
                                              44
    access to the political process.” Nipper, 39 F.3d at 1524. The existence of these
    
    factors, together with an appropriate remedy, as well as an assessment under the
    
    totality of the circumstances, generally will be sufficient to establish that the
    
    challenged practice allows racial bias to dilute the voting strength of the minority
    
    population. See id. at 1524-25.
    
          Here, Appellants have offered no evidence of political cohesion or a majority
    
    white voting bloc. Indeed, as discussed earlier, Appellants’ only evidence concerns
    
    allegations of Appellees’ discriminatory intent. This evidence is wholly insufficient
    
    to meet the requirements of the Gingles factors. Given the dearth of relevant evidence
    
    as to Appellants’ section 2 vote dilution claim, Appellants have failed to establish a
    
    genuine issue of material fact concerning the second or third prerequisite under
    
    Gingles. We conclude, therefore, that Appellants have also failed to establish a
    
    genuine issue of material fact as to vote dilution, and hold that the district court
    
    properly granted summary judgment to Appellees on both of Appellants’ section 2
    
    claims.
    
    
    
                                              C.
    
                          Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
    
          There are two distinct causes of action arising under Title VI of the Civil Rights
    
    Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d to 2000d-4a. First, the Supreme Court has recognized
    
                                              45
    a private cause of action to enforce section 601, which prohibits any recipient of
    
    federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national
    
    origin in any federally funded program.28 See Alexander v. Choate, 
    469 U.S. 287
    ,
    
    293-94 (1985); Guardians Ass’n v. Civil Serv. Comm’n, 
    463 U.S. 582
    , 607 n.27
    
    (1983); id. at 608 n.1 (Powell, J., concurring in judgment); see also Franklin v.
    
    Gwinnett County Pub. Schs., 
    503 U.S. 60
    , 70 (1992). To state such a claim, a plaintiff
    
    must establish discriminatory intent. See Alexander, 469 U.S. at 293. Accordingly,
    
    Title VI’s protection extends no further than that already afforded under the Equal
    
    Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See United States v. Fordice, 
    505 U.S. 717
    , 732 n.7 (1992); Elston v. Talladega County Bd. of Educ., 
    997 F.2d 1394
    ,
    
    1405 n.11, 1406 (11th Cir. 1993) (citing Alexander, 469 U.S. at 293; Guardians, 463
    
    U.S. at 584 n.2; Georgia State Conference of Branches of NAACP v. Georgia, 
    775 F.2d 1403
    , 1417 (11th Cir. 1985)).
    
           Second, we have recognized an implied private right of action to enforce the
    
    regulations promulgated under section 602 of Title VI.29 See Elston, 
    997 F.2d 1407
    ;
    
    
           28
             Section 601 of Title VI provides: “No person in the United States shall, on the
    ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the
    benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal
    financial assistance.” Civil Rights Act of 1964 § 601, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.
           29
            Section 602 of Title VI provides:
    
                       Each Federal department and agency which is
                  empowered to extend Federal financial assistance to any
    
                                                 46
    Georgia State Conference, 775 F.2d at 1417. These regulations prohibit recipients of
    
    federal funds from taking any action that results in disparate impact or discriminatory
    
    
    
    
                 program or activity, by way of grant, loan, or contract other than
                 a contract of insurance or guaranty, is authorized and directed to
                 effectuate the provisions of section 2000d of this title with
                 respect to such program or activity by issuing rules, regulations,
                 or orders of general applicability which shall be consistent with
                 achievement of the objectives of the statute authorizing the
                 financial assistance in connection with which the action is taken.
                 No such rule, regulation, or order shall become effective unless
                 and until approved by the President. Compliance with any
                 requirement adopted pursuant to this section may be effected (1)
                 by the termination of or refusal to grant or to continue assistance
                 under such program or activity to any recipient as to whom there
                 has been an express finding on the record, after opportunity for
                 hearing, of a failure to comply with such requirement, but such
                 termination or refusal shall be limited to the particular political
                 entity, or part thereof, or other recipient as to whom such a
                 finding has been made and, shall be limited in its effect to the
                 particular program, or part thereof, in which such
                 noncompliance has been so found, or (2) by any other means
                 authorized by law: Provided, however, That no such action
                 shall be taken until the department or agency concerned has
                 advised the appropriate person or persons of the failure to
                 comply with the requirement and has determined that
                 compliance cannot be secured by voluntary means. In the case
                 of any action terminating, or refusing to grant or continue,
                 assistance because of failure to comply with a requirement
                 imposed pursuant to this section, the head of the Federal
                 department or agency shall file with the committees of the
                 House and Senate having legislative jurisdiction over the
                 program or activity involved a full written report of the
                 circumstances and the grounds for such action. No such action
                 shall become effective until thirty days have elapsed after the
                 filing of such report.
    
    Civil Rights Act of 1964 § 602, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-1.
    
                                                 47
    effects on the basis of race, color, or national origin.30 Under this cause of action,
    
    unlike a claim arising under section 601, a plaintiff may obtain injunctive or
    
    declaratory relief by showing, inter alia, that the challenged action has “a disparate
    
    impact on groups protected by the statute, even if those actions are not intentionally
    
    discriminatory.” Elston, 997 F.2d at 1406 (citing Alexander, 469 U.S. at 292-94;
    
    Guardians, 463 U.S. at 584 n.2; Georgia State Conference, 775 F.2d at 1417).
    
    
           30
              The Department of Agriculture has promulgated the following regulations relevant
    to this litigation:
    
                          (2) A recipient, in determining the types of services,
                  financial aid, or other benefits, or facilities which will be
                  provided under any such program, or the class of individuals to
                  whom, or the situations in which, such services, financial aid,
                  other benefits, or facilities will be provided under any such
                  program or the class of individuals to be afforded an opportunity
                  to participate in any such program, may not, directly or through
                  contractual or other arrangements, utilize criteria or methods of
                  administration which have the effect of subjecting individuals to
                  discrimination because of their race, color, or national origin, or
                  have the effect of defeating or substantially impairing
                  accomplishment of the objectives of the program as respects
                  individuals of a particular race, color, or national origin.
    
                          (3) In determining the site or location of facilities, an
                  applicant or recipient may not make selections with the purpose
                  or effect of excluding individuals from, denying them the
                  benefits of, or subjecting them to discrimination under any of its
                  activities or programs to which the regulations in this part apply,
                  on the grounds of race, color, or national origin; or with the
                  purpose or effect of defeating or substantially impairing the
                  accomplishment of the objectives of the Act and the regulations
                  in this part.
    
    7 C.F.R. § 15.3(b)(2), (3).
    
                                                  48
           Appellants have raised both of these claims under Title VI. First, they assert
    
    that the BGHA intentionally discriminated against the tenants of the Okeechobee
    
    Center on the basis of race in violation of section 601 of Title VI by refusing to
    
    petition for annexation. Second, Appellants allege that the BGHA’s failure to petition
    
    resulted in discriminatory effects on the basis of race in violation of the disparate
    
    impact regulations promulgated pursuant to section 602 of Title VI. The district court
    
    granted the BGHA         summary judgment sua sponte on both of these claims,
    
    specifically concluding that no meaningful relief could be fashioned to remedy the
    
    alleged wrong. Appellants contend that this decision was error. Even if the district
    
    court were correct that it could not order annexation, Appellants argue that the court
    
    could have ordered the BGHA to equalize the benefits and services between the two
    
    centers. Appellants contend, for example, that the City levies a 50% surcharge for
    
    water on the Okeechobee Center tenants. The City does not impose this charge on the
    
    Osceola Center tenants because that center is located within the City’s municipal
    
    boundaries. Although we conclude that the district court properly granted summary
    
    judgement sua sponte31 to Appellee BGHA with respect to Appellants’ claim arising
    
           31
             Contrary to the district court’s suggestion that Appellants’ Title VI claims were
    properly presented on motion, we believe that the district court entered summary judgment
    as to these claims sua sponte. See Burton, 966 F. Supp. at 1187 n.11. The City only moved
    for summary judgment on Appellants’ Voting Rights Act claims on the ground that, as a
    matter of law, it could not be compelled to annex the Okeechobee Center. The district court
    concluded that the unavailability of the equitable remedy of compelled annexation barred all
    of Appellants’ claims. However, because the unavailability of court-ordered annexation is
    
                                                49
    under section 601, our review of the record compels the conclusion that Appellants
    
    were not afforded a sufficient opportunity to be heard on their disparate impact claim
    
    arising from the regulations promulgated under section 602 of Title VI.
    
          A district court possesses the power to enter summary judgment sua sponte
    
    provided the losing party “was on notice that she had to come forward with all of her
    
    evidence.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 
    477 U.S. 317
    , 326 (1986). Under Fed. R. Civ.
    
    P. 56(c), motions for summary judgment must be served on opponents at least ten
    
    days prior to the hearing. As we have long recognized, “this notice provision is not
    
    an unimportant technicality, but a vital procedural safeguard” to a party’s right to offer
    
    the best defense to any challenge. Massey v. Congress Life Ins. Co., 
    116 F.3d 1414
    ,
    
    1417 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing National Fire Ins. v. Bartolazo, 
    27 F.3d 518
    , 520 (11th
    
    Cir. 1994); Hanson v. Polk County Land, Inc., 
    608 F.2d 129
    , 131 (5th Cir. 1979)).
    
    But so long as the party against whom judgment will be entered is given sufficient
    
    advance notice and has been afforded an adequate opportunity to demonstrate why
    
    summary judgment should not be granted, then granting summary judgment sua
    
    sponte is entirely appropriate. See 10A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Mary
    
    Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2720 (3d ed. 1998).
    
          Appellants could survive summary judgment on their claim arising under
    
    
    not dispositive of Appellants’ Title VI claims against the BGHA, we cannot say that any
    party had, in fact, moved for summary judgment on the Title VI claims.
    
                                               50
    section 601 only if they establish a genuine issue of material fact as to the BGHA’s
    
    discriminatory intent after June 13, 1991, four years prior to the initiation of this
    
    lawsuit.32 Appellants’ § 1983 claims also required proof of discriminatory intent
    
    during that same period. However, because Appellants themselves moved for
    
    summary judgment on their § 1983 claims, it follows that they, in fact, had more than
    
    reasonable opportunity to marshal the same evidence of intent in support of their Title
    
    VI claim as well. And since Appellants plainly failed to adduce sufficient evidence
    
    as to intent with respect to any portion of their § 1983 claims, it likewise follows a
    
    fortiori that they could not present sufficient evidence of intent as to this Title VI
    
    claim either. Thus, the district court properly granted summary judgment sua sponte
    
    to the BGHA as to Appellants’ section 601 claim.
    
           In contrast, Appellants were not afforded sufficient opportunity to defend
    
    against summary judgment with respect to their cause of action to enforce the
    
    disparate impact regulations promulgated under section 602 of Title VI. To survive
    
    summary judgment, in this context, Appellants must establish, among other things, a
    
    genuine issue of material fact as to whether the BGHA’s failure to petition for
    
    annexation of the Okeechobee Center resulted in a disparate impact on the
    
    
    
           32
             This claim is also governed by Florida’s four-year residual personal injury statute
    of limitations. See Rozar v. Mullis, 
    85 F.3d 556
    , 561 (11th Cir. 1996) (holding that Title VI
    claims are governed by the same statute of limitations applicable to § 1983 claims).
    
                                                 51
    Okeechobee Center tenants on the basis of race. See Elston, 997 F.2d at 1407.
    
    Appellants simply did not have an opportunity to develop or marshal this type of
    
    evidence. As we have observed, Appellants’ § 1983 claims turned on evidence of the
    
    City’s discriminatory intent in refusing to annex the Okeechobee Center in 1995.
    
    Moreover, Appellants’ claims under the Voting Rights Act required evidence of an
    
    available remedy -- court-ordered annexation or an injunction prohibiting the City
    
    from discriminating on the basis of race. But the evidence required to establish these
    
    claims is not dispositive of any disparate impact the BGHA’s actions may have had
    
    on the Okeechobee Center tenants. The record is incomplete and issue has not been
    
    joined on this matter. We conclude, therefore, that the district court erred in granting
    
    summary judgment sua sponte to Appellee BGHA on Appellants’ action to enforce
    
    the disparate impact regulations promulgated pursuant to section 602 of Title VI, and
    
    we remand this claim to the district court to provide the parties with an opportunity
    
    to develop the record as to this distinct claim.33
    
    
    
    
                                              III.
    
          In sum, we hold that Appellants have failed to establish a genuine issue of
    
    
          33
           Appellants also move this Court to reassign the case on remand to another judge.
    We can find no basis in this record to do so, and, accordingly, deny this application.
    
                                               52
    material fact in support of their claims arising under § 1983, section 2 of the Voting
    
    Rights Act of 1965, and section 601 of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and
    
    that the district court properly entered summary judgment as to each of these claims.
    
    However, with respect to Appellants’ claim arising under disparate impact regulations
    
    promulgated pursuant to section 602 of Title VI, we conclude that the district court
    
    improvidently granted summary judgment to Appellee BGHA. Accordingly, the
    
    judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and
    
    REMANDED to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
    
    
    
    
                                             53
    

Document Info

DocketNumber: 97-5091

Citation Numbers: 178 F.3d 1175

Filed Date: 6/25/1999

Precedential Status: Precedential

Modified Date: 4/16/2017

Authorities (65)

Purcell v. Bankatlantic Financial , 85 F.3d 1508 ( 1996 )

Harris v. Shelby Cty. Bd. of Ed. , 99 F.3d 1078 ( 1996 )

Massey v. Congress Life Insurance , 116 F.3d 1414 ( 1997 )

Hall v. Holder , 117 F.3d 1222 ( 1997 )

Davis v. Chiles , 139 F.3d 1414 ( 1998 )

Socialist Workers Party v. Leahy , 145 F.3d 1240 ( 1998 )

Brooks v. Miller , 158 F.3d 1230 ( 1998 )

Gomillion v. Lightfoot , 364 U.S. 339 ( 1960 )

Longshoremen v. Philadelphia Marine Trade Assn. , 389 U.S. 64 ( 1967 )

Perkins v. Matthews , 400 U.S. 379 ( 1971 )

Beer v. United States , 425 U.S. 130 ( 1976 )

Washington v. Davis , 426 U.S. 229 ( 1976 )

Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. , 429 U.S. 252 ( 1977 )

Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle , 429 U.S. 274 ( 1977 )

Holt Civic Club v. Tuscaloosa , 439 U.S. 60 ( 1978 )

Personnel Administrator of Mass. v. Feeney , 442 U.S. 256 ( 1979 )

Columbus Bd. of Ed. v. Penick , 443 U.S. 449 ( 1979 )

Mobile v. Bolden , 446 U.S. 55 ( 1980 )

Rogers v. Lodge , 458 U.S. 613 ( 1982 )

Guardians Assn. v. Civil Serv. Comm'n of New York City , 463 U.S. 582 ( 1983 )

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