Shelley v. Kraemer
|Shelley v. Kraemer|
|Argued January 15, 1948
Decided May 3, 1948
|Full case name||Shelley et ux. v. Kraemer et ux. McGhee et ux. v. Sipes et al.|
|Citations||334 U.S. 1 (more)
68 S. Ct. 836; 92 L. Ed. 1161; 3 A.L.R.2d 441
|Prior history||Judgment for defendants; reversed, 198 S.W.2d 679 (Mo. 1947); certiorari granted. Judgment for plaintiffs; affirmed 25 N.W.2d 638 (Mich. 614); certiorari granted.|
|The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits a state from enforcing restrictive covenants that would prohibit a person from owning or occupying property based on race or color.|
|Majority||Vinson, joined by Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Burton|
|Reed, Jackson, Rutledge took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.|
|U.S. Const. amend. XIV|
Facts of the case
In 1945, an African-American family by the name of Shelley purchased a house in St. Louis, Missouri. At the time of purchase, they were unaware that a restrictive covenant had been in place on the property since 1911. The restrictive covenant prevented "people of the Negro or Mongolian Race" from occupying the property. Louis Kraemer, who lived ten blocks away, sued to prevent the Shelleys from taking possession of the property. The Supreme Court of Missouri held that the covenant was enforceable against the purchasers because the covenant was a purely private agreement between the original parties thereto. As such, it "ran with the land" and was enforceable against subsequent owners. Moreover, because it ran in favor of an estate rather than merely a person, it could be enforced against a third party. A materially similar scenario took place in the companion case McGhee v. Sipes from Detroit, Michigan, where the McGhees purchased land subject to a similar restrictive covenant. The Supreme Court consolidated both cases for oral arguments.
The Supreme Court considered two questions: are racially based restrictive covenants legal under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and can they be enforced by a court of law?
Decision of the court
The United States Supreme Court held "[T]he restrictive racially-based restrictive covenants are not, on their face, invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment." However, while private parties may voluntarily abide by the terms of such a restrictive covenant, they may not seek judicial enforcement of such a covenant because enforcement by the courts would constitute state action. Since such state action would necessarily be discriminatory, the enforcement of a racially based restrictive covenant in a state court would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The court rejected the argument that since state courts would enforce a restrictive covenant against white people, judicial enforcement of restrictive covenants would not violate the Equal Protection Clause. The court noted that the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees individual rights, and that equal protection of the law is not achieved through the imposition of inequalities.
The attorneys who argued the case for the McGhees were Thurgood Marshall and Loren Miller. The United States Solicitor General, Philip Perlman, who argued in this case that the restrictive covenants were unconstitutional, had previously in 1925 as the city solicitor of Baltimore acted to support the city government's segregation efforts.
Hurd v. Hodge and Urciolo v. Hodge were companion cases from the District of Columbia; the Equal Protection Clause does not explicitly apply to United States territory which is not inside a state, but the Court found that both the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and treating persons in the District like those in the States, forbade restrictive covenants.
The Solicitor General's brief
The Solicitor General's brief filed on behalf of the United States government was written by four Jewish lawyers: Philip Elman, Oscar Davis, Hilbert Zarky, and Stanley Silverberg. However, the Solicitor General’s office chose to omit their names from the brief. The principal assistant to the Solicitor General, Arnold Raum, who was also Jewish, stated that it was "bad enough that Perlman’s name has to be there, to have one Jew’s name on it, but you have also put four more Jewish names on. That makes it look as if a bunch of Jewish lawyers in the Department of Justice put this out."
- List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 334
- Shelley House (St. Louis, Missouri), National Historic Landmark
- Noble v. Alley, a similar case decided by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1951.
- "Shelley House". We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement. National Park Service. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- Mitchell, Juanita Jackson (2004). "Meade v. Dennistone: The NAACP's Test Case to "... Sue Jim Crow Out of Maryland with the Fourteenth Amendment". Maryland Law Review (Baltimore, Maryland: University of Maryland School of Law) 63: 807.
- 334 U.S. 24
- Elman, Philip; Silber, Norman (1987). "The Solicitor General’s Office, Justice Frankfurter, and Civil Rights Litigation, 1946–1960: An Oral History". Harvard Law Review 100 (4): 817–852 [p. 819]. doi:10.2307/1341096. JSTOR 1341096. As quoted in Waxman, Seth. "Twins at Birth: Civil Rights and the Role of the Solicitor General". Indiana Law Journal 75: 1297, 1306 n. 53.
- Darden, Joe T. (1995). "Black Residential Segregation Since the 1948 Shelley v. Kraemer Decision". Journal of Black Studies 25 (6): 680–691. doi:10.1177/002193479502500603.
- Gilmore, Brian (March 11, 2009). "Not in My Backyard". The Root.
- Henkin, Louis (1962). "Shelley v. Kraemer: Notes for a Revised Opinion". University of Pennsylvania Law Review 110 (4): 473–505. doi:10.2307/3310675. JSTOR 3310675.
- Higginbotham, A. Leon (1989). "Race, sex, education and Missouri jurisprudence: Shelley v. Kraemer in a historical perspective". Washington University Law Quarterly 67: 673–708. ISSN 0043-0862.
Works related to Shelley v. Kraemer at Wikisource