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(334 U.S. 1 (1947))

NO. 72.


Argued January 15–16, 1948.-Decided May 3, 1948.

Private agreements to exclude persons of designated race or color

from The use or occupancy of real estate for residential purposes do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment; but it is violative of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment for state courts to enforce them. Corrigan v. Buckley, 271 U. S. 323, distinguished. Pp. 423.

(a) Such private agreements standing alone do not violate any rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 12–13.

(b) The actions of state courts and judicial officers in their official capacities are actions of the states within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 1+1S.

(c) In granting judicial enforcement of such private agreements in these cases, the states acted to deny petitioners the equal protection of 'he laws, contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp.


Gill The fact that state courts stand ready to enforce restriclive covenanis excluding white persons from the ownership or occupancy of property covered by them does not prevent the enforcement of covenants excluding colored persons from constiPuting it denal of qual protection of the laws, since the righis created by § 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment are guaranteed to the individual. Pp. 21-22.

*Together with So. 97, NIcOiher et ur. v. Sipes et al., on certiorari to the Suprrine ('ourt of Michigan.

( Danial al soon to the court to catorce quel motivo covenant dose not deny equal protection of the lawr to the partica

to mich agenata. P.22 366 Mo. 814, 198 8. W. ad 670, and 316 Mich. 614, N. W. 9d 638,


No. 72. The Supreme Court of Missouri reverned a judgment of a state trial court denying enforcement of a private agreement restricting the use or occupancy of certain real estate to persons of the Caucasian race. 355 Mo. 814, 198 S. W. 2d 679. This Court granted certiorari. 331 U.S. 803. Reversed, p. 23.

No. 87. The Supreme Court of Michigan affirmed a judgment of a state trial court enjoining violation of a private agreement restricting the use or occupancy of certain real estate to persons of the Caucasian race. 316 Mich. 614, 25 N. W. 2d 638. This Court granted certiorari. 331 U.S. 804. Reversed, p. 23.

George L. Vaughn and Herman Willer argued the cause and filed a brief for petitioners in No. 72. Earl Susman was also of counsel.

Thurgood Marshall and Loren Miller argued the cause for petitioners in No. 87. With them on the brief were Willis M. Graves, Francis Dent, William H. Hastie, Charles H. Houston, George M. Johnson, William R. Ming, Jr., James Nabrit, Jr., Marian W’ynn Perry, Spottswood W'. Robinson, III, Andrew Weinberger and Ruth Weyand.

By special leave of Court, Solicitor General Perlman argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting petitioners. With him on the brief was Altorney General Clark.

Gerald L. Seegers argued the cause for respondents in No. 72. With him on the brief was Walter H. Pollmann. Benjamin P. York was also of counsel.

Henry Griligan and James A. Crooks argued the cause and filed a brief for respondents in No. 87. Lloyd T. Chockley was also of counsel.

Briefs of amici curiae supporting petitioners were filed by Perry W. Howard for the Civil Liberties Department, Grand Lodge of Elks, I. B. P. O. E. W.; Isaac Pacht, Irving Hill and Clore Warne; Robert McC. Marsh and Eugene Blanc, Jr. for the Protestant Council of New York City; Herbert 8. Thatcher and Robert A. Wilson for the American Federation of Labor; Julius L. Goldstein for the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League to Champion Human Rights, Inc.; Melville J. France for the General Council of Congregational Christian Churches et al.; Robert W. Renny, 0. John Rogge and Mozart G. Ratner for the National Lawyers Guild; Lee Pressman, Eugene Cotton, Frank Donner, John J. Abt, Leon M. Despres, M. H. Goldstein, Isadore Kata, David Rein, Samuel L. Rothbard, Harry Sacher, William Standard and Lindsay P. Walden for the Congress of Industrial Organizations et al.; Phineas Indritz, Irving R. M. Panzer and Richard A. Solomon for the American Veterans Committee; William Maslow, Shad Polier, Joseph B. Robison, Byron S. Miller and William Strong for the American Jewish Congress; Joseph M. Proskauer and Jacob Grumet for the American Jewish Committee et al.; William Strong for the American Indian Citizens League of California, Inc.; Francis M. Dent, Walter M. Nelson, Eugene H. Buder, Victor B. Harris, Luther Ely Smith and Harold I. Kahen for the American Civil Liberties Union; Earl B. Dickerson, Richard E Westbrooks and Loring B. Moore for the National Bar Association; Alger Hiss, Joseph M. Proskauer and Victor Elting for the American Association for the United Nations; and Edward C. Park and Frank B. Frederick for the American Unitarian Association.

Briefs of amici curiae supporting respondents were filed by Roger J. Whiteford and John J. Wilson for the National Association of Real Estate Boards; Ray C. Eberhard and Elisabeth Eberhard Zeigler for the Arlington Heights Property Owners Association et al.; and Thomas F. Cadwalader and Carlyle Barton for the Mount Royal Protective Association, Inc.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE VINson delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases present for our consideration questions relating to the validity of court enforcement of private agreements, generally described as restrictive covenants, which have as their purpose the exclusion of persons of designated race or color from the ownership or occupancy of real property. Basic constitutional issues of obvious importance have been raised.

The first of these cases comes to this Court on certiorari to the Supreme Court of Missouri. On February 16, 1911, thirty out of a total of thirty-nine owners of property fronting both sides of Labadie Avenue between Taylor Avenue and Cora Avenue in the city of St. Louis, signed an agreement, which was subsequently recorded, providing in part:

the said property is hereby restricted to the use and occupancy for the term of Fifty (50) years from this date, so that it shall be a condition all the time and whether recited and referred to as (sic) not in subsequent conveyances and shall attach to the land as a condition precedent to the sale of the same, that hereafter no part of said property or any

portion thereof shall be, for said term of Fifty-years, occupied by any person not of the Caucasian race, it being intended hereby to restrict the use of said property for said period of time against the occupancy as owners or tenants of any portion of said property for resident or other purpose by people of

the Negro or Mongolian Race.' The entire district described in the agreement included fifty-seven parcels of land. The thirty owners who signed the agreement held title to forty-seven parcels, including the particular parcel involved in this case. At the time the agreement was signed, five of the parcels in the district were owned by Negroes. One of those had been occupied by Negro families since 1882, nearly thirty years before the restrictive agreement was executed. The trial court found that owners of seven out of nine homes on the south side of Labadie Avenue, within the restricted district and "in the immediate vicinity” of the premises in question, had failed to sign the restrictive agreement in 1911. At the time this action was brought, four of the premises were occupied by Negroes, and had been so occupied for periods ranging from twenty-three to sixtythree years. A fifth parcel had been occupied by Negroes until a year before this suit was instituted.

On August 11, 1945, pursuant to a contract of sale, petitioners Shelley, who are Negroes, for valuable consideration received from one Fitzgerald a warranty deed to the parcel in question. The trial court found that petitioners had no actual knowledge of the restrictive agreement at the time of the purchase.

· The trial court found that title to the property which petitioners Shelley sought to purchase was held by one Bishop, a real estate dealer, who placed the property in the name of Josephine Fitzgerald. Bishop, who acted as agent for petitioners in the purchase, concealed tbe fact of his ownership.

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