The Supreme Court yesterday rejected a request by state officials to reduce the amount of interest Missouri must pay to lawyers who opposed the state in a Kansas City desegregation case.

In the case, Missouri v. Jenkins, a federal district court on Feb. 24, 1986, ordered the state to make an interim payment of $200,000 to lawyers who handled the case. On July 14, 1987, the district court ordered the state to pay the lawyers a total of $4.1 million.

The order was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which upheld the district court's ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court in 1989 affirmed the appeals court's ruling.

Not content with the legal wrangling up to that point, the parties then fought over whether the state should pay interest on the fees. The bone of contention was whether interest was due from Feb. 24, 1986, when the district court first ordered the state to make payments, or from July 14, 1987, when the district court quantified the amount of those payments.

The Eighth Circuit ruled against Missouri, prompting the state's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court's decision not to hear arguments in the case appears to close the book on the matter, which first arose in 1977 when the Kansas City school district filed suit against the state because of segregation. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that federal courts can force localities to increase taxes in order to remedy past discrimination.

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